Talk about a strange, wacky indoctrination into San Diego politics.
Scott Sherman? Welcome aboard.
Sherman, winner of last year’s District 7 City Council race, took office when Mayor Bob Filner did. The only difference? This was Sherman’s first time doing the people’s business. Filner, the longtime Democratic pol, was expected to shake up City Hall with his progressive agenda and brusque style. (Oh, and he did...)
Sherman, a Republican, was part of a party that had little power, given the Council was controlled by Democrats. But Sherman didn’t act like any rookie politician mired in a minority party.
Far from it.
Since taking office, Sherman had been publicly critical of Filner, unabashedly calling him out on a number of occasions, well before the much publicized sex scandal that eventually forced Filner from office.
For instance, when Filner vetoed port commission appointments the Council had reached by compromise, Sherman took Filner to task and accused him of playing partisan politics.
“I was disappointed to learn from media reports this afternoon that Mayor Bob Filner vetoed two outstanding appointees to the San Diego Port Commission,” Sherman said at the time. “These two moderate, diverse, well-qualified candidates were supported by a majority of the Council and nominated by both Republicans and Democrats. The Port of San Diego is too important to our regional economy to be held up by partisan, Washington-style political games.”
When the Filner administration was accused of asking for a $100,000 donation from a developer to keep a project moving, Sherman pounced. In a story in the U-T San Diego, he said, “the transaction doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“All of those sound like a shakedown to me,” Sherman said. “And, quite frankly, I understand that you get things from developers when they do things. That’s part of the deal. It’s a give and take. But, to me, you do that up front and you have it in writing and when you’re done you keep to your word.”
And when the mayor was accused of harassing women, Sherman was one of the first to call on him to quit.
“I am calling on Mayor Filner to resign,” he said on the day the allegations were levied. “He had admitted he is guilty of sexually harassing women and his actions are unacceptable under any circumstance. Unfortunately, this is the latest and most disturbing of a series of scandals that make him incapable of leading our city.”
“All I’ve known my entire life is to be a little more outspoken,” Sherman said. “In business I learned a long time ago that integrity, honor, commitment, keeping your word... those kinds of things are important for success in the long run, so that’s all I know to do here. People may not like what I say sometimes but they need to hear it and hopefully they’ll respect me for it.”
Indeed, there’s a sign at the entrance of his office — “Department of Common Sense.”
“This is really what our office is all about,” he said.
A San Diego native, Sherman sees himself more as a citizen of the public sector who happens to be working as a city council member rather than a bonafide politician. First and foremost, he is a small-business owner and he credits his work experience as the co-owner of an insurance firm for keeping him grounded since beginning his term.
“As a business owner, there were some things in the way that the city has been spending our tax dollars that I don’t agree with,” Sherman said. “So I figured, you know, maybe somebody who has actually signed the front of a paycheck should go to City Hall. So we ran and here we are.”
Indeed, he didn’t even need to worry about a run-off because he captured more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 2012 primary, which earned him the seat outright. He represents a number of inland neighborhoods, including Mission Valley, Linda Vista, Serra Mesa and Allied Gardens, among others.
Sherman, who was born on a military base, attributes much of his work ethic and honesty to his father’s military background in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
“It plays into my politics with dealing with homeless veterans’ issues, overall respect for the military and wanting to keep the relationship between the city and the military in good stead,” he said. “It’s a very large driver of the city’s economy. These people have sometimes given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and we should in turn show our respect to them.”
Sherman brings his background in small business ownership — particularly the importance of customer service — to City Hall. Indeed, he even personally validated this reporter’s parking ticket.
“One of the things I always said the city should do is say five simple words ‘How may I help you?’” Sherman said. “And we’re trying to do that in this office and hopefully it will branch out and spread to other areas of the city. We are public servants after all, we shouldn’t be held to a different standard than those who elected us here.”
But it’s both a lack of common sense and dignity that Sherman believes ultimately led to the mayor’s resignation.
“If our mayor behaved the way he does and the way I’ve seen him, in the private sector he’d be unemployable,” Sherman said. “He wouldn’t be able to hold down a job and that’s one of the things that’s been bugging me about this whole thing. Sometimes elected officials get into office and then the first thing they do is they think they’re above the people that voted them there and it’s not right.”
Although the details of the Filner scandal just recently became public, Sherman knew there would trouble shortly after taking office.
“After sitting through a couple closed session meetings and seeing the way he was treating people in those meetings, I knew we were in trouble,” Sherman said.
And Sherman wasn’t shy about bringing up his concerns publicly. At the time, when a lot of people were still on the fence, he was not.
He was giving it to Filner.