By Pat ShermanAs Julie Dubick ends her days as Mayor Jerry Sanders’ chief of staff, the La Jolla resident is looking forward to some well- deserved downtime in the seaside community she’s called home for nearly two decades.
“It’s a job for someone who likes to be busy,” said Dubick of her role in the mayor’s office. “Monday and Tuesday are city council
days and Wednesday is committee day, so it’s only Thursday and Friday that you are really left to get all of your work done.
“It’s a lot of face time — and that’s what people from the community expect when they come here,” she said. “It’s making sure you touch the community or help the mayor do that.”
Dubick’s annual salary was $150,000 minus a 6 percent pay cut she and other city staff took in 2009.
Dubick joined Sanders as director of policy and deputy chief of staff when he took office in 2005. She began her career as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. She also served as assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service, later joining the San Diego law firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, where she was a partner. She is married to attorney Mitch Dubick and has three adult children: David, Gabby and Jessica. She has a home above the Village near the La Jolla Country Club.
Though Dubick often joined the mayor at community meetings and events, more often she could be found in her office on the 11th-floor of city hall, mulling over strategies and making sure the mayor’s policies were implemented.
“It is a balancing and bringing together of sometimes adverse, and certainly diverse, interests. That can be harrowing because there are a lot of agendas. The idea is to arrive at some consensus.”
Dubick said moving the $45 million Plaza de Panama project in Balboa Park along was one of the most daunting negotiations she worked on at city hall. The equally revered and derided project, which includes a bypass bridge and parking garage, is largely funded by La Jolla philanthropist and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.
“I think the mayor and we all felt strongly that we wanted to make sure this thing went through without too much abuse being heaped upon Irwin Jacobs,” she said. “In the end it was achieved, but it was a long and harrowing process — and we’re still in litigation over it.”
In her final month, Dubick continues to work on the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center — another controversial project steeped in litigation. (Some climate change experts predict the center could be inundated with seawater by mid-century.)
Still, Dubick maintains that the convention center is a crucial economic generator for the city, providing money for public safety, neighborhood services and library hours.
Mayor weighs inSpeaking with the
La Jolla Light, Mayor Sanders cited Dubick’s commitment to solidifying the Convention Center project before he leaves office.
Leading a city with the nation’s eighth largest population, Sanders said he has relied on Dubick’s advice daily.
“She works with me on issues every single day and makes sure that I understand them,” said Sanders, whose working relationship with Dubick spans two decades, including service on several nonprofit boards, including the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
“She always leaves the decision making up to me, but she’s always got an idea of where it should go, which thankfully I’m smart enough to take. She just is really smart politically, but also smart operationally, which is a pretty hard blend to find. She is really the glue in this office.”
Dubick has had to soothe situations where San Diego’s straight-talking mayor and former police chief let his salty tongue fly, as happened with former mayoral opponent Steve Francis in 2008 and again when commenting on Carl DeMaio’s tactics this year.
“He has been known to express his opinion quite graphically,” she said. “Luckily, he doesn’t do it that often.”
Voices from the homefrontHas it been hard for the La Jolla resident to hold her own tongue when her community’s issues land on the mayor’s desk?
for where I live and I feel like everybody should do that, but again, our duty really is citywide,” she said. “I get calls from my fellow La Jollans when they go through a huge pothole and send those right down to Streets (Division) and urge that they get fixed ASAP. ... My own husband is bothering me about the Cove stench.
“If you know someone, you’re going to call them, and my neighbors are active, social people, so they call and say, ‘I see street sweeping going on in front of the Beach and Tennis Club and it doesn’t need to happen. Why are you wasting that money?’ I try to explain it’s an experimental program in which we’re testing runoff. They don’t really care. They care about the answer.”
Dubick said she believes parking and the condition of streets and business storefronts are priority issues that need to be addressed in La Jolla.
“Beautification is always an issue for La Jollans,” she said, noting that the community’s ongoing secession effort has not been well received at C Street.
“They want their jewel to look right and be maintained right. I know that there have been complaints that the city hasn’t spent enough money doing that. In many ways that’s true, because the city’s been strapped for a period of time and it’s now going to come back to restoring more services.”
Tips for Filner’s ‘go-to’Asked what advice she would give Mayor Bob Filner’s chief of staff, Dubick quipped, “So, run is the wrong answer?”
She said Filner’s right-hand man or woman should prepare for a wild ride and learn to “bite their tongue.”
“They’re going to have to listen to the community very carefully,” she said. “You’re going to have to make a complete pivot from being partisan to serving the whole community, listening to the whole community and not saying, ‘Well this guy contributed to my campaign, so I’m going to do this,’ versus represent everybody’s interests.
“It’s really important to remember that you represent everybody — even the views you don’t agree with.”
Efforts rewardedLast month, Dubick and husband, Mitch, were chosen as the Anti-Defamation League’s 2012 Torch of Liberty Award recipients, which is given to individuals with a commitment to promoting respect, counteracting hatred and bigotry, and supporting fair treatment for all.
Sanders praised Dubick for being able to balance diplomacy and tenacity.
“She’s one of those people that, when she needs to be, can be the toughest person in the world at negotiating,” he said. “Then one minute later she can be talking with an employee and trying to help them work out issues, and just very kind and compassionate.”
Coming home to La JollaAfter leaving her position with the city, Dubick intends to rest, rejuvenate and reacquaint herself with La Jolla’s vast dining options and cultural institutions, eventually availing herself of La Jolla’s many volunteer and community service opportunities.
“I’m not doing as well as the mayor, who is taking three months and going to Italy,” she said. “He’s doing it the right way.”
Though Dubick is still a member of the State Bar, she said she doesn’t see herself practicing law again fulltime.
“I practiced law for 20 years and earned a good living to put my kids through college and now it’s time to give back to the community,” she said. “As with some of the boards I sit on, I’m always happy to provide that kind of expertise and am still qualified to do it.”
Until then, Dubick intends to enjoy a low-profile life. “I’ll see you in La Jolla in my scruffies, with my hair pulled back enjoying myself.”