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Roger Hedgecock : Enjoying Life Beyond Politics Despite a Lingering Legal Cloud

October 05, 1986|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

Former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock drives to work these days in a new Cadillac Seville. His radio talk show on KSDO is a major success that continues to provide him with a potent public forum.

The radio program, combined with his work as a land-use consultant, gives him a salary that is more than double--how much more is anyone's guess--his former $50,000 annual wage as mayor. At several recent receptions, he has received rousing ovations. He gets to spend more time with his family and pronounces himself a "happier, more rounded person."

And last weekend, there was Roger Hedgecock, wearing sunglasses and sporting a new beard, belting out the lyrics to "Louie, Louie" before the crowd at a surfing contest in Oceanside.

Suffice it to say that Hedgecock is not moping at home over his 13-count felony conviction, handed down one year ago this week, and wringing his hands over thoughts of what might have been.

"Sitting around complaining about how unfair things are isn't my style," Hedgecock said in a lengthy interview last week. "The test of life is, can you come out smiling? The test isn't whether you can come out a winner, because sometimes you will be and sometimes you won't be. The test is whether you can put it in perspective, bounce back, be positive, continue to contribute, continue to make a difference, no matter what life throws at you. That's what I've always tried to do. So, I've been doing a lot of smiling lately."

Throughout his political career, Hedgecock's allies and opponents alike marveled at his ability to, in his word, "compartmentalize"--to focus his energies on the tasks before him while not being distracted by other events swirling around him. One of the more notable displays of that characteristic occurred during his two trials, when Hedgecock carried out his mayoral duties with aplomb even as he battled for his political life in court.

J. Michael McDade, Hedgecock's close friend and former City Hall chief of staff, once described Hedgecock as a person who "believes in putting everything he's got into the activity at hand and believes that, regardless of the outcome, the sun will always come up tomorrow."

While McDade made that comment in the fall of 1983--when neither he nor Hedgecock could have anticipated just how severely that philosophy would be tested two years hence--it concisely captures the essence of Hedgecock's life in the year since his conviction.

The former mayor's cocky assuredness, sharp tongue and sense of humor remain firmly intact as he adjusts to life after politics--a life that could include a year in county jail if his appeal is unsuccessful.

Though clearly concerned about that prospect, the 40-year-old Hedgecock said he spends little time worrying about it "because it's in my lawyers' hands and out of my control." When he does broach the subject, it more often than not serves as fodder for a joke. Recently, for example, Hedgecock approached Sheriff John Duffy at a party and asked whether his beard is "within the regulations" for county jail inmates.

"You might as well kid about it," said Hedgecock, acknowledging that the humor perhaps serves as a psychological defense mechanism.

While awaiting the outcome of his appeal, Hedgecock already has begun serving a three-year probation, under which he has periodic meetings with a probation officer "that last about two minutes."

Overall, Hedgecock says that he has enjoyed his readjustment to life as a private citizen, a transformation that he likened to "stopping hitting yourself over the head with a hammer."

Gushing over the joy of rediscovering time for "simple but sane pursuits" such as reading, movies, travel and family activities, Hedgecock said: "These are everyday things for most people, but you never have enough time for them in politics. I used to wear out tuxedos running around to 19 receptions and parties a night.

"When you're in politics, you just accept that as the way it is. But you have to get away from it to realize what an insane life style that is. It's a pleasure to be first and foremost a father and husband."

Hedgecock and his wife, Cindy, have two boys, ages 6 and 9.

Meanwhile, Hedgecock's job as host of a 9 a.m. to noon talk show on KSDO radio has enabled him to remain very much a public figure. Always eclectic in his interests and comfortable in front of a microphone, Hedgecock described the job as "a delightful way to get paid for having fun."

Topics discussed on the program range from the usual local, national and international issues of the day to decidedly offbeat offerings. Once, Hedgecock's guest was a man who claimed that his body was inhabited by a 2,000-year-old man with the ability to predict the future. Unable to resist a joke even at his own expense, Hedgecock asked the man how his appeal would turn out. The answer: Hedgecock will be dissatisfied with the early rounds of his appeal, but ultimately will be vindicated.

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