Choosing The First Annual "La Mesan Of The Year''

Civic Leaders and Public Policy Dominated Election Year

LA MESA – In the course of a community’s year, there is always a person who rises to dominate this first draft of history. For good reasons or bad, he or she becomes the story of that year for the town, a literal or metaphoric representation of the best or the worst in all of us.

And so it is in designating the First Annual La Mesa Today Person of the Year. In consultation and discussion with civic and business leaders, a variety of names and reasons were raised for consideration:

 Laura Lothian, the local realtor whose scrappy run for mayor reminded all that politics in the Jewel of the Hills can be pointed and meaningful.


 Sandra Kerl, the former City Manager, who persuaded La Mesa’s civil servants to contribute to their own pensions long before most other towns even broached the now-hot issue.


 Gina Garcia, the publisher of our own, whose new on-line publication has spurred a mini-revolution in La Mesa news coverage.




 Russell Buckley, who has waged a tireless, but civil campaign to inform the public about looming pension challenges in city, state and water district authorities.


 Reggie Bush, Helix High's Phenom, who faced the wrath of the sanctimonious NCAA with poise.


 Mary England, whose stewardship of the La Mesa Chamber in difficult economic waters, is worthy of note.



 Volunteers – the literally hundreds of local citizens who are increasingly filling in the gaps as recreation and arts opportunities are pushed by economics from local schools.



But the clear consensus winner reflects that 2010 was, in fact, an election year.

With more than 30 years in local politics, Art Madrid must have known that running for re-election in 2010 was likely to put him through a bit of a wringer. His personal foibles during the previous term were undoubtedly going to be raised by his detractors – and they were.

Still, Madrid can be said to have guided his city particularly well through some of the most challenging economic times in its 98-year history. While other municipalities have faced layoffs and drastic service cuts, Madrid had the ability to win the trust of voters who approved a sales tax increase and funding for a new firehouse and police station. While other towns now grapple with their unions about pension contributions, La Mesa has already traveled those difficult waters and Madrid was at the helm throughout.

One might have understood if Madrid decided to retire after 20 years in the mayor’s seat, but he chose to face the music for his personal failings and soldier on. He won. Now he will have the honor of leading the city through its centennial year in 2012. And, eventually, perhaps after this term, he will face the final challenge of his long service to the people of La Mesa, leaving the helm and assuring a vibrant and engaged leadership in his wake.

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Tags: Government, La Mesan of the Year


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Comment by Scott H. Kidwell on December 30, 2010 at 7:55pm
Given the broad Time Magazine like criteria, the limits of the little pond of La Mesa and the recipients lightening rodesque personality and pension for leading or stumbling into headline news, the choice is understandable.
Comment by Ian I Shiff on December 30, 2010 at 9:13am

in all fairness - Mr. Madrid has done a lot for the city, I will agree with that.

I do agree with Deena - as it is the volunteers and those who help keep La Mesa's small town charm intact who deserve this honor. The unnamed, the underappreciated, and those who give without asking for public praise or recognition.

Comment by Chris Lavin on December 30, 2010 at 8:05am

Deena, thank you for your thoughtful comment. We hope that next year we can in fact open this process to a wider group of people and in a non-election year I'm sure a more diverse group of nominees will surface. 

In the meantime, if you know anyone you'd like to give some attention in this venue please feel free to pass the idea along.  We are interested year-round in highlighting significant contributors to the civic good of La Mesa.

Happy New Year!

Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by Deena on December 30, 2010 at 7:39am

I was really excited to see who the La Mesan of the Year was....but come on, really?  The mayor?  Couldn't you look a little deeper than that?  Don't get me wrong, I know we have many deserving City officials and employees.


I hope the Second Annual La Mesan of the Year is a "realatively-no-name-but-big-heart" type individual...there are many civic minded individuals.  Open this up to public nominations and let's get to know our little-known heros.

Comment by David Stanley on December 29, 2010 at 10:59pm

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