The day after Jerry Sanders left office as mayor, he reported for work at a new job.
Sanders has now been president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce for a full month.
But next week he’ll embark on a three-month vacation in Italy, for which he and his wife Rana began planning and saving money after his re-election in 2008.
“We’ll be staying in ‘bed & breakfasts’, small places, renting apartments,” Sanders said during an interview Thursday in the Chamber’s downtown office.
“We’re not in the five-star plan,” he added, grinning. “We didn’t save that much.”
Since turning over the mayor’s office to Bob Filner on December 3rd, Sanders seems to have transitioned smoothly from City Hall to the Chamber -- where he's making triple what his barely six-figure salary was as mayor.
Among the organization’s major priorities is backing efforts to help rebuild the city's cracking and crumbling infrastructure.
With nearly a billion dollars’ worth of 'deferred maintenance' projects waiting to be undertaken, will taxes be needed to bankroll them all?
"You know, I don't think you can rule out anything at this point,” Sanders said. “But one of the things you have to do is convince people that you're looking at all the needs, you're prioritizing those needs, and you're going to do it in a way that really rebuilds infrastructure in a way that creates jobs and housing and opportunities."
Sanders came to the Chamber offering far more than a passing familiarity with its civic issues and ambitions.
But he admits to being on a learning curve: "One of the things that I'm going to have to do better now is to educate our legislators in what kills jobs and what brings jobs."
Sanders himself is educated in the nuances of Sacramento and Washington -- especially the Pentagon's priorities for this region.
"San Diego's positioned well, even if the military is cut back because the military's facing east now, and San Diego represents that,” Sanders explained. “So we've been effective in the past, and I think we can continue to be effective."
By the time Ruben Barrales, the Chamber's boss for six years, was planning his departure, Sander's tenure as mayor was ending.
But not his desire for civic engagement.
The Chamber's door quickly opened.
"And it was remarkable that he was available, he was what we were looking for, and he's excited to be here,” says Mark Leslie, the Chamber’s immediate past chairman and interim CEO. “So it's an absolute grand slam. It's not a home run, it's a grand slam."
Leslie will hold the fort at the organization until Sanders and his wife return from their leisurely, extended tour of Italy.
“It’s not structured at all; we’re just going to do (things) as we get there,” Sanders said of the overseas sojourn, breaking into a mischievous smile. “We’ve got a lot of guide books, language books, and at some point I’m sure we’ll actually open them. It’s a pasta-rich country, so we’re talking about a lot of hiking and walking … which I don’t think is difficult with all the beauty that’s there.”