In a quiet moment between his seemingly endless slate of meetings, San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria ’00 walked to the window of his 11th-floor office and took in the stunning view of the city he’d been tasked to keep afloat in the wake of unprecedented political scandal.
“These last few months have not been easy, no doubt about that,” Gloria offered, eyes fixed on the cityscape below. “But you get into this line of work — at least I did — to make a positive and lasting difference in your community. And that’s exactly what we’re trying todo here.”
While the blast radius created by former mayor Bob Filner’s brief and explosive tenure has been equal parts extensive and disheartening for Gloria and his team, the 35-year-old San Diego native is committed to the cleanup effort, and the wide-eyed enthusiasm with which he has pursued his myriad mayoral obligations has served as a striking contrast to the oft-displayed churlishness of his predecessor.
“We are here to serve our constituents, first and foremost,” Gloria said. “I absolutely love what I do, and as the old adage says, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
When the city’s new mayor-elect takes office, he’ll do so knowing that Gloria’s steadying influence has gone a long way in bringing credibility back to San Diego; no small feat considering that, for several tempestuous weeks last year, America’s Finest City was more a punch line than a paradise.
“It’s hard not to take it personally when your hometown is getting so much bad press,” Gloria said. “We were in damage control-mode from day one.”
Since Filner’s resignation in August 2013, Gloria has kept his focus on balancing the budget, improving municipal infrastructure and getting projects like the Balboa Park Centennial celebration back on track. He also has made a concerted effort to enhance the level of transparency under which his office operated — a policy often ignored by the previous administration.
“People want and need to feel that their opinions matter, and to lose that connection with their elected officials is very frustrating,” said Gloria, who personally manages all of his social media platforms in order to stay in constant connection with his constituents. “There’s a lot of responsibility involved in civil service, but you can never lose sight of the fact that you’re here to serve.”
Working for the common good is old hat for Gloria, who as a 10-year-old would watch political conventions from gavel-to-gavel, and then canvass his Clairemont, Calif. neighborhood to register first-time voters — including his parents.
“People always assume I’m from a politically active family, which just isn’t true,” he said. “My parents in no way pushed politics on me; it’s just been something I’ve always been interested in.”
Those interests were further ignited once Gloria arrived at Alcalá Park as a freshman in the fall of 1996. Concerned about what he construed to be an alarming lack of diversity on campus, Gloria became an active member of USD’s Multicultural Center, and was instrumental in revamping the university’s nondiscrimination policy and enhancing the depth and breadth of the Department of Ethnic Studies.
An honor student who graduated summa cum laude with a dual degree in history and political science, Gloria is convinced that his USD student experience helped shape his passion for civil service.
“USD is where I found my voice as an activist, and where I learned to advocate for others,” he said.
While his supporters were hoping that Gloria would add his name to the mayoral election ballet last November, his responsibilities as city council president and District 3 councilmember are more than enough to keep him occupied — for now.
“Serving [as interim mayor] has been a challenging experience, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding,” he said. “I never would’ve seen myself in this position a few years ago, but it’s funny how life can surprise you. Who knows what the future holds?”