Jerry Sanders reflects on years as San Diego mayor

Carl DeMaio, Bob Filner vying to succeed Sanders

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Monday reflected on his years as mayor and shared his greatest accomplishments and his biggest regret.

When Sanders won a special election seven years ago, San Diego was being called "Enron by the sea." The city's finances and records were in shambles.

"I gave it a lot of thought but I guess I didn't know what I was getting into," said Sanders, who was referring to what awaited him at City Hall. "When I got over here, we didn't have any idea how many employees we had. We didn't know what property we owned."

Sanders and his team are credited with saving a sinking ship. He says he did it because he was asked to and he says it was his way of giving back. He had spent 26 years in the San Diego Police Department, with six of those years as chief.  Then, he served as the head of the county United Way followed by the board of the American Red Cross.

This was his first elected office.

When asked whether the job has taken a toll on him, Sanders replied, "I'm sure it does. I know it's taken a toll on the family."

His family played a big role in his life as mayor, including in his 2007 emotional reversal of his stand on same-sex marriage.

"I'm still emotional about that," he said. "You know my family's really important. My daughter's a lesbian. My press secretary at that time was Fred Sanes. He was gay and he said, 'You can't do this.'"

He did it anyway and has become well-known for speaking his mind and occasionally throwing in profanity to emphasize his point.

What goes through his mind during those moments? 

"Well, I'm always somewhat surprised that people are shocked that I use that language since I was a cop for a long time," said Sanders with a twinkle in his eye. "That's just who I am."

When asked to share his thoughts about the two men who want his job, Sanders said,

"Bob is… he's pretty bad to deal with. He's just not a nice person," he said. "I like Carl and I think he has a chance to grow. He's still young." 

Sanders endorsed DeMaio in September.

One of Sanders' proudest accomplishments is the new central library. It is a team effort that comes after seven years during which Sanders says he received lessons in politics, stayed true to himself and lost 90 pounds.

"I still think like a fat boy though," he said. "I see burritos and I think, 'Boy, I'd like to have that.'"

What he does not want anymore of, he says, is politics.

"There's other people who can take this and run with it and I'm happy to take the position where I can be a normal person again," Sanders said.

He says his biggest regret was not being able to build a new city hall during the turbulent economy that prevailed during his tenure.

Now, he says he can give his family the time he could not as mayor. He has planned a trip to Italy for some R and R.

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