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Before she became the Council member representing La Jolla and the rest of San Diego City Council District 1, Barbara Bry was a high-tech entrepreneur. (She and her husband, Neil Senturia, founded Blackbird Ventures.) Before that, she taught entrepreneurship at UC San Diego and, before that, she covered business for the Los Angeles Times. But all that’s in her bio. What about the Barbara Bry the public knows nothing about, the La Jollan you might see out shopping with her grandkids in The Village? We got personal recently over some P.F. Chang’s spring rolls in University City.
Is Bry your original family name?
It’s an acronym. It stood for Ben Rabbi Yisroel. It’s German. I’m Jewish and my family is from Germany, Hungary and Romania, but my father’s side shortened it when they came to the United States.
How much did you love brie-cheese jokes as a kid?
I don’t know if I even knew what brie cheese was growing up. Those were very different times. The world was much more parochial and I was in a suburb of Philadelphia. I didn’t eat a croissant until I was in my 20s.
What did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a playwright. I wrote little plays and skits that we would perform at school or the house. I did a parody of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” with children taking over the world instead of animals. It was a combination of that and “Lord of the Flies.” We staged that in junior high.
You ended up a different kind of writer.
I wasn’t that good as a playwright, but I was a good journalist. In high school, I worked on my school newspaper. I liked meeting different kinds of people, I liked learning different things every day, and I liked putting it together into a story. After business school, I got hired at the Sacramento Bee and then the L.A. Times as a business writer. I covered the Public Utilities Commission, I covered housing, I covered financial institutions. I liked it a lot.
How did you get into politics?
People have hobbies. My husband plays golf, he sails, he skis. People collect stamps. My hobby is organizing things. My husband and I have an investment company together, and our office was in La Jolla Shores on Avenida de la Playa. My husband is still there. The City had to do the same work over and over because they didn’t get it right the first time. And I’m looking out my window at the street being torn out and all the merchants being inconvenienced, and I’m thinking, ‘I can’t find the cure for brain cancer, but fixing the streets is something the City should be able to get right.’
How did you end up a La Jollan?
It was May of 1977 and the Sacramento Bee sent me to cover a builders convention in San Francisco. I met my first husband there, and he was a San Diego real-estate developer. We started dating, then the L.A. Times offered me a job and I moved to L.A. I lived up there during the week and flew to San Diego on the weekends, on a little commuter airline called Imperial that flew every half hour from San Diego to LAX. I moved to Mission Beach in 1978, got married in 1980, and then moved to La Jolla when my oldest daughter was two.
Why La Jolla?
We wanted to be in a yard, we wanted to live in a neighborhood. We were living on the boardwalk on Mission Beach, which was fun, but we had a dog and a child. We found a house in La Jolla and bought it.
You have a 3-year-old grandson and a 6-month-old granddaughter. How is grandparenthood different than parenthood?
I love it, it’s the best thing, and I’m very blessed they live about three miles from me in La Jolla, so I get to see them a lot.
People say it’s all of the positives of being a parent with none of the responsibilities.
Right — although I do change diapers. You can call my daughter and fact-check that.
Monkees? No. It was which Beatle, and the answer is Paul. He was the cutest. He wrote the best songs. I was in junior high school when they first came to the U.S., and I remember being at a slumber party with a lot of my girlfriends, watching them on TV. This was before I knew anything about Paul. I just went, ahh, I like him the best.
Name a current TV show you’re obsessed with.
“Ray Donovan.” Ray is not a good human being. He beats people up, he kills people, he cheats on his wife. But he’s a complex character. He has a tortured past and he was abused by a priest growing up. In one of the episodes, someone asks Ray why they should pay him all this money to do this for us, and he says, “I change the story.” And that’s what I try to do in politics, change the story.
What’s something personal that nobody knows about you?
I have good balance. I’m very good at yoga. Does that make me a well-balanced person?