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Let's Get on With It

October 13, 1985

It's easy to be over-dramatic about the pending change of leadership at San Diego City Hall. To Roger Hedgecock's credit, the next mayor will not come into a city government left in shambles because of inattention. Hedgecock, blessed with remarkable energy and powers of concentration, seemingly managed to keep things running smoothly through both of his trials and throughout a year of distraction.

But that's not to say there will not be some difficult times ahead for all those in city government. City Manager Sylvester Murray, on the job only a month, will have to contend with a void at the head of the council table--and probably with two or more council members running for mayor. It will be up to him to work at keeping morale high among city employees and to steer a steady course in the face of the numerous initiatives likely to be launched by the mayoral contenders on the council.

By graciously setting Friday as his resignation date, Hedgecock has speeded up the replacement process by three weeks. The City Council should move quickly to set an election for the earliest reasonable time.

As the candidates announce their intentions and the campaigns begin to unfold, the question of leadership is likely to emerge as a key. Pete Wilson, who was first elected to the office in 1971, transformed the mayor's role from figurehead to true political leader. Hedgecock's election seemed to assure that San Diego would continue to have a strong hand at the helm. Looking at the list of those frequently mentioned as possible candidates for mayor, it is difficult to see the leadership qualities that both Wilson and Hedgecock possessed. But opportunity often brings out the best in those who would claim leadership, and we hope that is the case with the next mayor.

San Diego is not a city that likes to wallow in controversy. After the hotly contested 1983 race between Hedgecock and Maureen O'Connor, for example, the public quickly warmed to Hedgecock as mayor. And although many felt that Hedgecock's prosecution was unjust, an early reading indicates an acceptance of the jury's verdict. The next mayor undoubtedly will benefit from this same spirit.

The city will now be best served by a vigorous campaign that stresses ideas, issues and leadership qualities. The testing of candidates' qualifications and mental agility is a natural part of a good campaign.

But we would like to think that voters have grown tired of the technique that has become all too common here in recent years of introducing extraneous, often distorted, allegations and issues to attack an opponent.

This is a time for unity in the community, and those candidates who show an ability to unify are likely to receive the public's support over those who choose to further divide.

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