Yet another special election will fill one of the most powerful positions in San Diego, the office of mayor. As the “strong mayor” is able to hire and fire, radically alter policy and generally shape or misshape San Diego’s civic future, this choice matters. Choose well, San Diego.
With Robert Filner’s recent removal via forced resignation, the field of hopefuls has opened to an interesting selection of candidates, not the least, former assemblyman and Marine combat veteran, Nathan Fletcher, whose most recent and well-paid position with Qualcomm carries the title of senior director of corporate development.
At the Veterans Summit 2012, Fletcher gave an extraordinarily thoughtful and penetrating speech, the likes of which is both rare and uplifting. If you wish to truly gauge a candidate by the quality of his or her humanity and thoughts, watch this speech. Humble, funny, wise, insightful and offered entirely free of hubris, it’s quite clear that these are his words, not just those of a faceless speechwriter. Video of his speech is available on YouTube.com at CA Community Colleges, entitled “Hon. Nathan Fletcher – Veterans Summit 2012.”
Likewise, Nathan Fletcher gave a pithy, funny and gracious introductory speech at former Mayor Filner’s first State of the City event in January 2013.
At the State of the City, Fletcher stood out as a person of substance, though there was even then concerned talk about his shift from Republican to Independent, which portended something that many Democrats may now find unsettling.
It appears this change in party affiliation is one arisen from thoughtfulness and pragmatism without a rigid adherence to a framework of one political party or policy. Frankly, this is a central feature of a thinking mind, which is woefully absent too often these days and should be rewarded. Fundamentally, progress requires the ability to change and adjust in light of changed circumstances.
As an aside, what is remarkable about the local Republican Party is that they had in 2012 a candidate like Fletcher available and instead chose to endorse DeMaio, whose radical views are truly odd, if not bizarre. Wow.
The contrast between Fletcher and DeMaio is so stark as to be comical. Nevertheless, a choice was made and its aftermath seems to have moved Fletcher into a more natural posture, that of a thinking person focused on solving the problems of a modern San Diego faced with challenges, but broadly peopled with optimists who want a better future.
The question of why Fletcher moved from Independent to Democrat seems less obvious, but the easiest analysis suggests that as a Democrat he could attain office in a major party, whereas as an Independent his fortunes would be more circumspect. The pragmatic choice seems appropriate and consistent with his overarching approach.
One thing stands out about Fletcher. He has steadiness with a sense of humor and balance grown out of battle-tested blue-collar roots, a witness to life’s genuine hardships and privations. This is manifested as an ability to judge and choose wisely based on an innate set of triage rules: first things first.
He also seems to have an ability to listen and grow from new information, to make fact-based choices. Now the most difficult question: how and to whom will he listen? Electors are often surprised by the faces emerging from behind the curtain after elections are won, but modern political life is not solitary or without compromise.
Most important, it seems that the underlying human being in Fletcher has concern for others, a feature that is paramount in a good, decent public servant. This appears to be not a feigned concern raised up for public consumption or elections and abandoned in private or away from the limelight, but a genuine feeling arisen from a strong moral compass. What a pleasure it would be to think that officeholders care about the fate of constituents, not just their own fate in a bid for re-election.
One of the greatest challenges for a “strong mayor” is that of functioning as an effective administrator over a large, complex civic body. The former civic structure that employed professional managers had considerable advantages, but we now ask elected officials to fill this role and to also be good political leaders. That is a very tall order!
Query: Can Fletcher step into that position based on his experience to date? Can any of the other candidates do better?
That is one important question that certainly should be asked of and answered by each potential mayoral candidate.
No one knows the future, and favorable observations should not be construed as an endorsement, but if San Diego can choose well, a person with solid characteristics like Fletcher would most likely reward San Diego’s citizenry with a new approach based on greater cooperation and congeniality, something sorely needed in these challenging times.
Coffey is an attorney based in San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.