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Exit Interview: Donna Frye


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Maybe maverick San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, who recently termed out after serving almost 10 years, will be remembered as the lone vote against a 2002 proposal that allowed the city to underfund the pension and increase employee benefits — a move that would later plunge the city into financial disaster. Maybe San Diegans will recall her write-in candidacy for mayor in 2004, which she ultimately lost because a judge would not count more than 5,500 ballots on which voters had written her name but failed to darken the corresponding bubble. Or maybe the colorful surf-shop owner made her biggest impression when she cut and colored her trademark parted-down-the-middle straight hair, widely reported by local media.

One thing is certain. Donna Frye will be remembered.

She has a few departing words:

Favorite accomplishments: Boycotting closed-session meetings of the City Council for three weeks, until she got the rules changed so everything said during the meeting was recorded and transcribed. “The difference in having a transcriptionist is night and day. It used to be this raucous mess. People would say things like ‘Oh, we don’t have to show that to the public. We’re running for election; we can’t let that get out.’ People don’t say that kind of stuff anymore. The attitude has changed.”

Best moment: “Running a five-week mayoral campaign and getting 155,000 people to write my name in. And winning the election and not being able to serve when they didn’t fill in the bubble. The bubble thing is probably almost legend at this point.”

What she’s looking forward to: “I hopefully will never have to read another preliminary official statement on a bond offering or another Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. I shouldn’t have to say ‘CAFR’ ever again. I will not vouch, nor have I ever vouched, for any of them. I’m not signing them, not swearing to them, no thank you. No. Thank. You.”

Her future: “This is going to seem cryptic, but I’m going to be a janitor for justice. Think of it as perhaps like a political janitor. You’ll know when the debris and the dirt is gone. It will be real apparent that the cleaning crew has been there.”

On the failure of Proposition D: “I regret I wasn’t able to solve this problem. But I’m not sure any one person could.”

On campaigning for Proposition D with Mayor Jerry Sanders: “It was fun. I like Jerry. We just don’t see eye-to-eye. I’m more of a rough-and-tumble freethinker. I like a raucous atmosphere. We have different styles. Sometimes we’d laugh, say something at a debate, and I’d whisper something to him, we’d crack up. It’s what people do in these situations. You lock arms and say, ‘Let’s do our best.’ ”

Things she can do now that she couldn’t before: “Curse. Not worry about if the microphone’s hot. There were times I would have liked to throw off a choice expletive or hit somebody with my iced-tea bottle, and I didn’t do that. I’m not violent.”

On departing just as news broke that the city’s annual report will be late again, this time because of the computer system: “I’m glad I’m leaving. Like Yogi Berra said, it feels like déjà vu all over again. I’ve lived this nightmare for almost 10 years. I’m ready to reenter the universe.”

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