Finalizing our Voice of the Year list, a tradition we started just last year, isn’t something we take lightly.

Voice of the Year

Any time you set out to curate a list of a select group of people, you inevitably have to make some hard choices. There were plenty of contenders we considered who ultimately didn’t make the cut.

Once our Voice of the Year list was published, we heard from more readers about who they thought deserved to make the list.

Since our Voice of the Year list is all about who provoked important discussions across San Diego, we wanted to keep the conversation going.

Check out our list below of more San Diegans who kick-started important discussions this year, including some new suggestions from readers. Comments have been edited lightly for style and clarity.


Jason Cabel Roe and Revolvis: Republicans’ Voice Behind the Scenes

Republican politics in San Diego are more professional than the Democrats. There are more Republican consultants, lobbyists and pollsters. They serve specific interests with financial goals in the public sector.

To be clear, this isn’t absent from the Democratic side, particularly with labor.

But politics is part of business for Republicans, and one of those groups of professionals has emerged as the dominant force in San Diego’s business and conservative network: Revolvis. Partners Jason Roe and Duane Dichiara made their voices heard in San Diego in 2014.

After helping secure the mayor’s office for Kevin Faulconer, another Revolvis partner, Stephen Puetz, took over as Faulconer’s chief of staff. Roe led the effort to push the minimum wage increase onto the ballot after the City Council tried to impose it. Revolvis helped elect Chris Cate to an important City Council seat and is credited with engineering the successful overthrow of Todd Gloria as City Council president. Revolvis coordinated the campaigns of Cate, Councilman Mark Kersey and Councilman Scott Sherman.

And Revolvis will likely be on the front line for the highly contested District 1 seat in 2016.

When Roe turned against Revolvis’ one-time client, congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, it was both shocking and a kind of green-light for other Republicans who might have wanted to steer clear of the divisive candidate.

Roe and Revolvis’ team work often behind the scenes. But you can bet their voice is being listened to among the professional political network on the right.

–Scott Lewis

The Readers’ Case:

“First and foremost, while he has been a lesser-known voice who has stayed primarily behind the scenes in local politics, Jason Roe and his team at Revolvis have simply dominated elections and legislative issues throughout 2014. He was Kevin Faulconer, Lorie Zapf and Chis Cate’s lead campaign consultant. He led the minimum wage referendum. His only candidate who walked away from him (Carl DeMaio) didn’t make out too well. Agree with him or not, his voice cannot be ignored or underestimated.”

– Mark Cafferty

President and CEO,

San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation

Carl DeMaio: The Voice of New-Wave Republicans

He was not successful, but it’s hard to argue anyone created more conversation in San Diego than Carl DeMaio. He has a unique ability to frame his messages to force people to talk about topics that are advantageous for him. And even though the issue is hardly a big one in this corner of the country, he forced the national political conversation to consider a future in which being a gay politician and being a Republican politician is no longer interesting or “historic.”

It created enemies for DeMaio’s campaign that did not help. Some conservative groups lined up to support for his opponent, Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, simply because they could not stand the idea of the Republicans moving beyond opposition to same-sex marriage.

DeMaio created more conversations than that. What does it mean to be in the Tea Party? What is wrong with the traditional consultant-planned campaign model in California? And then, of course, how do you best handle two devastating accusations of sexual harassment by former staffers in the last month of a high-profile campaign?

–Scott Lewis

The Readers’ Case:

“His presence alone brought major money and national attention  to 52nd race. He made it more challenging for the Democratic Party to continue to promote the ‘GOP hates gays’ message. He opened up the conversation about fiscally conservative beliefs, and who might have them. And the loss to Scott Peters created one game plan for defeating gay candidates in the future. Will be interesting to see which party uses it next.”

— Glenn Younger,

President, Hillcrest Community Foundation

Nicole Capretz: The Voice Standing Up to Climate Change

Nicole Capretz is perhaps best known for her work as director of environmental policy under former interim mayor Todd Gloria. There, she headed up the team responsible for an early draft of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which “identifie[d] measures to effectively meet greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2035.”

The Readers’ Case:

“I would like to nominate Nicole Capretz as Voice of the Year on the issue of climate change. She wrote the city’s Climate Action Plan, which was approved by the mayor and is widely supported by both Democrats and Republicans. If passed, the plan will make San Diego a statewide leader on climate issues. Capretz has been a strong voice on climate change for many years, and she’s one of our most effective and strategic activists in San Diego.”

– Kath Rogers

Operations director, Climate Action Campaign

Vice chair, Hillcrest Town Council

“Nicole Capretz and I worked together in both interim mayor Todd Gloria’s office and in the office of Councilman Ed Harris. In both offices, I watched her tirelessly pursue and advocate for the adoption of the Climate Action Plan. She continually made the case for why the city had to do the right thing by adopting a plan that would protect our future and quality of life despite a lot of debate internally and externally about how aggressive the plan should be. It was so gratifying to watch Mayor Faulconer adopt the plan she had authored, and then to have cities like Chula Vista start asking staff to amend their plan to be more like San Diego’s. I believe Capretz’s efforts have made a lasting difference in determining how we grow as a city, how we move people around and how we power our homes and buildings.”

– Tracy Cambre

Deputy chief of staff for former Councilman Ed Harris

Mark Arabo: The Voice for Refuge

Mark Arabo’s been an influential man in San Diego as president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association. But he rose to a national stage, international even, when he stepped forward as a representative this year for the Iraqi Chaldean community abroad, pushing President Obama to take humanitarian action to help those terrorized by Sunni militants.

The Readers’ Case:

@vosdscott @Markcaffertysd @c_s_green @jcroe Agree on Roe, and @MarkArabo should have received Voice of Humanity nod. He was a force in ’14.

— Anthony G. Manolatos (@tonymanolatos) December 23, 2014


Among our reader-submitted suggestions, a few others stood out who deserve an honorable mention.

Scott Sherman has become the voice of the center-right, and 2014 has become his year. No matter where he stands on an issue, you know exactly where he stands – and has demonstrated leadership while others may have been hesitant to take positions that are more, ahem, challenging of the status quo.

Remember the time Sherman was on a fishing trip and came home early just so he could speak about his position on the minimum wage? Remember the countless times Sherman called everything like he saw it while others were hesitant to speak up so fiercely? Not to mention the efforts he’s led or participated in to give back to his community. And that’s not even mentioning his love of motorcycles, which is just kinda cool for a guy elected to office (OK, so maybe that doesn’t count). No matter your positions or no matter how you feel about Sherman, there’s no doubt he’s become a strong, unabashed advocate for center-right causes.

Local tech entrepreneur Ben Katz is a geek. An open government geek, that is. And as a private citizen, he’s been a leader in pushing San Diego’s government into adopting more and more #opengov into its operations. He’s hosted a series of chats with candidates about #opengov, and serves as the political director of Open San Diego. He’s appeared at City Council meetings to show support for open government, and has pushed hard to change the ways that the city handles tech things like email retention and making all sorts of city data available to the public through technology – all with significant success. While there’s still more work to be done, and while Katz hasn’t been the only one pushing this concept, there’s little doubt that Ben has been leading the conversation and driving the ship.”

– Dave McCulloch

Founder, Circle24 Strategies

Barry Jantz led Prop. H (a measure to extend Sharp HealthCare’s lease of Grossmont Hospital) with 86.8 percent support – huge! He is also an awesome voice for the GOP and East County politics.

Ben Katz has been a consistent leader on open data and civic justice.

Barbara Bry was just appointed to the White House innovation advisory board, is founder of Run Woman Run and is likely filing to run for San Diego City Council. Not to mention founder of ProFlowers (sold for $280 million) along with other tech co’s, and was former editor and CEO for Voice of San Diego, no?”

Zach Affolter is a thoughtful high school activist, puts a face on your Voice of the Year 2014 pick and represents future generations using video, social media and more to effect change. We heard of him when he spoke at Poway Unified School District board meeting. Despite the board voting to no longer discuss the issue of school events at SeaWorld, he pressed on. The board is finally starting to pay attention to these student voices.

Stephen Cox is founder of Take Lessons, always a dedicated voice for San Diego startups, as well as just running a business with ethical leadership. Add to that Robert Reyes, founder of StartupCircle who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the past decade to support San Diego startups before most people here even knew what “startup” meant.

Almis Udrys is leading a new frontier at City Hall with the newly formed Performance and Analytics Department. It’s great to see a fresh new government voice speaking in a new language: big data.

People like Tony Heinrichs, the city’s deputy COO of Public Works and Engineering, and Allen Carlisle, general manager and CEO of Padre Dam Municipal Water District, are so tireless and enthusiastic in the need to recycle water and apply engineering innovation for the entire region.”

– Gabriela Dow

VP of Strategic Initiatives, StartupCircle,

Owner, Mora Dow Consulting


Mayors Faulconer and Jorge Astiazaran (of Tijuana) have been united as the voice of cross-border relations. They meet often, have a very strong and visible working relationship, and they signed a formal memorandum of understanding last month to focus on binational projects. Faulconer’s decision to put Denise Garcia in charge of binational affairs for the city shows that he is seeking out top talent to support this crucial base of programs, relationships and opportunities.”  

– Mark Cafferty

President and CEO,

San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation


“What about those who saved the San Diego Opera from extinction? They deserve recognition for making a huge contribution to the benefit of San Diego.”

– Jane Renninger

University City

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Nicole Capretz and Tracy Cambre’s job titles. Cambre was deputy chief of staff for former Councilman Ed Harris.

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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