Mayor bows out with message of thanks

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SAN DIEGO — Mayor Jerry Sanders thanked San Diegans, city employees and City Council members Wednesday in his final scheduled news conference before leaving office on Monday.

He also offered well wishes to his successor, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego.

“I think the community has been a tremendous part of the turnaround of this city that we’ve seen over the last seven years,” Sanders said. “We’ve all been through some dark days and I think the people of San Diego felt that, and I think that’s the reason the support has been so good.”

Sanders became mayor after Dick Murphy resigned in 2005 amid growing municipal financial problems. He told reporters today that he and his staff were “immersed” with fiscal issues the first two years, as they tried to get the city back into the bond market and implement recommendations of a consultant.

Municipal employees in recent years worked harder and made less money, and around 1,500 of them were laid off, he said.

Sanders also credited the City Council with making tough decisions on a variety of issues, some of which put members at odds with their “natural constituencies.”

They never shirked their duty, he said.

Sanders described outgoing council President Tony Young as a “steady hand” and “tremendous resource.” Young resigned, effective at the end of the year, to become chief executive officer of the San Diego chapter of the American Red Cross.

Under questioning, Sanders refused to endorse a successor to Young.

He said he wished Mayor-elect Filner the best.

“I think in San Diego we all have a vested interest in the city moving ahead, and I don’t think it’s a time for partisan politics,” Sanders said. “I think it’s a time to get together and continue solving the issues we’re facing.”

During the campaign, he expressed worries that Filner would reverse many of his policies. But at his closing news conference, he said the reforms of the past few years were already in place.

Filner, always prepared with one-liners, popped into the room where the media was assembled and jokingly announced a “coup,” saying that he was taking over early. He departed before Sanders took the podium.

An inauguration for Filner, re-elected City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and council members Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner, and incoming councilmen Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman, is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. at the Balboa Park Club. The public is invited.

Sanders is scheduled to succeed Ruben Barrales as head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and then depart with his wife, Rana Sampson, to Italy for a three-month vacation.

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