Before beginning an hour-long interview, Nathan Fletcher had his belongings organized on a conference room table. He quickly put away his white headphones plugged into his Apple computer, took a sip from his mug and straightened his tie.
Fletcher, the 37-year-old State Assemblyman of California’s 75th district, is running for mayor of San Diego, because he considers himself the new generation of leadership San Diego needs. He said he hopes to reenergize the government and bring it to the current generation’s standards.
“I think generationally … (it’s) a little easier for me to connect with college students,” he said.
Fletcher said a commitment to higher education has to be made in order to rethink university institutions.
Higher education in California was recently 7 percent of the general fund, but that number has decreased to 3 percent, according to Fletcher. Because of this, he said he plans to introduce reforms within the correction system next year that may free some money for students to more easily receive a quality education.
“We’ve got to be willing to look at things in a new light and look at things in a new way, and have some conversations that occasionally may be uncomfortable,” Fletcher said.
This semester, the California State University Board of Trustees approved San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman’s $400,000 salary on the same day it approved a 12 percent tuition hike. Fletcher said students had a right to be frustrated.
“I thought the timing was bad, and if I was a student I would be pretty upset,” he said.
Fletcher said politicians need to engage, motivate, inspire and lead people; give individuals a compelling reason to care. He also said there is an abundance of apathy or disconnect across society in politics, but blames himself and his fellow politicians.
“As the candidates, you are running because you have to give people a reason to get engaged and interested,” Fletcher said. “And there is almost like a relevance gap between what politicians talk about and what actually affects people’s lives.”
He said the government is always the last institution to change and today’s younger generation understands the dynamics of a competitive global workforce.
“I grew up with technology; we are comfortable with it,” Fletcher said. “It is not something that’s new.”
Fletcher said he was the first California candidate to announce his campaign through YouTube; three weeks before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their presidential candidacies in the same way.
He said government needs to approach issues in a different manner. Gov. Jerry Brown recently proposed eliminating state-worker cellphones because of the budget deficit, which Fletcher said shows how government is stuck in the past.
“Why would you get rid of cellphones, why don’t you get rid of worker landlines?” Fletcher asked. “I don’t know anybody that would give up their cellphone to keep their landline.”
Understanding college life
Fletcher said he was just like any other student, working and juggling school commitments. He said his parents didn’t go to college, so he felt fortunate to have the opportunity.
“I don’t think I slept much for that period of my life,” he said. “Part of that was because I was working, part of that was because I was enjoying college, part of that was (I) didn’t need as much sleep.”
He worked as a forklift driver in a lumberyard, and was both a bouncer and bartender in a bar.
“I really tried to find that balance between studying, work and sports,” Fletcher said.
But now, instead of worrying about school, his priorities have led him to focus on his family and public service.
Fletcher said he is focused on solving problems, getting results and improving lives.
“Look, I’ll sit down and work with you. I don’t care what party you are,” he said.
Fletcher has had 21 pieces of legislation signed into law, but he authored one law in particular that hit close to San Diegans.
John Albert Gardner III sexually assaulted and murdered teenagers Amber Dubois of Escondido and Chelsea King of Poway in 2009.
Fletcher later authored Chelsea’s Law, which placed a one-strike penalty for violent sexual predators who target children.
AB 1844 enacted a lifetime GPS monitoring of sex offenders, created safezones around parks and placed comprehensive parole reform to better monitor harmful individuals.
Community and service
Fletcher said San Diego has a collection of amazing individuals and diversity.
“I think that’s something unique … in that the mayor represents the city and really needs to reflect its values, reflect its culture and reflect its energy … I think we are a good fit.”
Fletcher committed 10 years of service with the Marine Corps. He worked in counterintelligence in the Horn of Africa and the Near East. Prior to this service, he worked in the Sunni Triangle region of Iraq.
He earned several medals during both tours of services.
For more information about Fletcher and his campaign, visit www.NathanFletcher.com.