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Bob Nelson

Chairman, Unified Port of San Diego

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Throughout his four-decade professional career, Bob Nelson has wielded his considerable influence in a number of ways. He used the clout of the advertising and public relations company he once owned to develop campaigns in support of political initiatives. He served in advisory capacities to elected officials at the highest levels of government, as well as on the boards of business and nonprofits. And, since 2011, Nelson has been vice chair of the Board of Port Commissioners for the Unified Port of San Diego.

On Jan. 14, Nelson became chairman of the board.

“It's a tremendous honor. San Diego Harbor is one of the most attractive in the United States. Personally, I'm a recreational sailor, so it's a lot of fun to be master of all I survey,” Nelson said with a chuckle.

He said the Unified Port of San Diego is different than all the other ports in the state in that it is not a department of the city, but, an independent state agency.

“The Port touches five different cities (Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego) and it is governed by representatives selected from each of those cities to collectively serve the best interests of the people of California through stewardship of their tidelands,” Nelson said. “We are the governing body of about 6,000 acres of San Diego Bay and shore. Properties include about 7,000 hotel rooms, 17 marinas, more than 50 restaurants and we operate the Tenth Avenue Maine Terminal for cargo and lease the National City Marine Terminal for car imports and exports.”

As chairman, Nelson said he'll appoint all the subcommittees of the board and all of its representatives to many other organizations, such as SANDAG and the Tourism Authority. He'll set the board's agenda, run its meetings and serve as its principal representative.

“Every day, because we are so diverse, we are both a business operation and we're a government, which is a highly unusual hybrid,” Nelson said. “We receive no tax revenues. We get no property taxes, no income taxes, no sales taxes. All the roughly $150 million of revenue we receive comes as a function of our business operation. And that's just a real interesting governmental model, unique in my experience.”

Nelson's first year at the helm is shaping up to be an exciting one, presenting what he sees as some great opportunities.

“We're going to see construction beginning on several different hotel properties and restaurants. We will see the completion of the first phase of what's called the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, which is the beautification and widening of the pedestrian areas around the area of Broadway and Harbor Drive, down near the Cruise Ship Terminal. We will be starting the second phase of the multiyear program to re-plan the entire Port properties and we will be beginning to implement the recently adopted Climate Action Plan,” he said.

As chairman, given his lengthy track record of success, Bob Nelson will no doubt be a positive influence.

-Lovitt is a La Jolla-based freelance writer.

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