Jim Sills, RIP
It is with great sadness we let you know of the recent passing of longtime Republican political consultant and fellow Rostrafarian Jim Sills.
His sudden death, apparently from heart failure, is a shock to all of us.
There is no best way to do this, but in keeping with the spirit of a free-wheeling blog — the kind of forum Jim loved — we will add tributes and anecdotes directly to this post, as we receive them.
If you would like something included, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A March 2012 email from Jim to the Rostra administrators, at a time many were complaining about some post or another, said a lot…
The Fretting and hand-wringing by the Left about SD Rostra this week is a sign of our VITALITY!
They can’t get anyone to write for or even comment on their local venues.
Rostra is where it is going on, and OF COURSE some are afraid of Freedom and vigorous debate.
But it’s the energy and unpredictability of our Market Place that brings in the Readers, who LIKE all that Freedom.
Let the Whiners whine. SD Rostra is on the ‘Right’ track, in more ways than one.
Jim will be truly missed.
(Scroll down for the several compelling messages from Thursday)
From Ed Struiksma, Former San Diego City Councilman…
I am shocked to hear the news. I first met Jim when he came to work in my Council Office. I found Jim to be a very hard worker but more than that, if there was a word to sum up Jim it is “LOYAL.” He never undertook a task without giving it his 110%. He was there with you in good times and bad. His beliefs were as solid as granite, yet this person who may have seemed so steadfast to some had a heart as big as it gets. If you needed something or wanted something, Jim would put his needs aside and work for others first.
In the years after leaving office Jim and I continued our friendship. I was always pleased to hear from him and better than anyone, he made sure I stayed up on what was going on. I will miss him very much and trust he has taken his rightful place up on high still doing his best to lead others in the right direction.
I met Jim in 1977 when we teamed up on the Yes On D campaign, which resulted in nudity being outlawed at Black’s Beach. We kept in contact throughout the following decades and were involved in many campaigns. Jim may well have been a genius, literally. He understood politics like no other and he could just as easily grasp the big picture as well as comprehend all the details. His memory was astonishing. He was also someone of complete integrity. He only worked for candidates and issues he believed in. He would never work for conflicting interests. In the 35 years of knowing him, I can attest to the fact that he never wavered from his very conservative principles, not once. It was so fun talking politics with him that I must confess that the political future has lost a little of its joy for me now that he is gone. He loved what he did, and he was exceptional at it. He also loved writing for Rostra. I am really going to miss him.
I remember the first campaign I worked with Jim, this was in the eighties. He was the Chief of Staff for the chairman at the Board of Supervisors. Since that time, I was fortunate to have worked with Jim in other campaigns, and have marveled at his attention to detail in everything he did. Additionally, he was a loyal friend and colleague. You will be greatly missed, and fondly remembered.
Jim was a dear Christian brother in the Lord and as loyal a friend as you would ever hope to have. He loved politics and was among the best operating behind the scenes. He was a patriot and cherished the liberties and freedom that are at the heart of conservatism. Jim was a great encourager to me all through the years when I was in the media, after my TV news career ended and when I served on the staff of Supervisor Horn. The last time I saw him was at my going away party when I retired after ten years with the County. We always had a bond because of our mutual love for and trust in Jesus Christ. Jim delighted in the search for truth and had a knack for uncovering the skeletons in the closets of political people he opposed. Jim Sills was a man who gave his full devotion to the people he believed in. He was a loner who loaned his allegiance to just causes and frequently did so without asking for anything in return. I wish I would have spent more time with him on a personal basis; however, that was Jim. The gaps between our meetings were often long, but when he entered your life, it was as if you had only been apart for a short time. I miss him and will never forget his kindness.
I didn’t know Jim personally, though we had some common acquaintances. But we all got to know him better here on Rostra.
Jim raised the bar here on political discourse. In addition to being uniquely knowledgeable about local politics, Jim was FAR more gracious than the rest of us — adding gentle humor as well. Plus he had a unique talent for posting classy-looking entries that none of the rest of us have yet figured out how to do!
My sympathies to Jim’s friends who certainly lost a classy guy.
Brittany Catton, Armed Services YMCA…
Mr. Sills was a remarkable, passionate individual whose gentlemanly manners and eloquent speech are reminiscent of a gentler time. He had the gift to be able to encourage and motivate others as a lead opinion maker in San Diego and I was so impressed by his passion, work ethic and the effort he puts forth to champion individuals, causes, the military, and his beloved San Diego. He was such a great person and I am so privileged to have called him my friend. I will miss him and will always remember how he made me feel. San Diego will sorely miss him.
I worked closely with Jim when Bruce Henderson was representing City Council District 6. I spent considerable time on the campaign and spent many long hours as a volunteer. After Bruce was elected, I worked with Jim when I chaired the Clairemont Mesa Planning Committee. The apex of our relationship occurred when the infamous “Gang of Five,” led by now mayoral candidate Bob Filner corrupted the redistricting process in 1990. As part of that process, Filner went after Bruce and for anyone who remembers, that is when we had somewhere upwards of 47 maps including Filner’s famous “Environmental Map.”
I was one of the plaintiffs in the subsequent lawsuit. We started serving subpoenas to all of the council members’ staff and they started squawking and giving their bosses up. What they were doing was violating the Brown Act by holding illegal meetings by all going to the Padres games in the old city box. They made sure that they had taken control of the available city tickets. Filner and his lackeys were conducting city business in the evenings in clear violation of the Brown Act and we busted them.
We had Filner’s staff set up for depositions as they were about to give up Filner. I was sitting with Jim in Pat McCormick’s office. Pat is the now deceased attorney who represented us in that lawsuit. Jim and I were sitting at a coffee table and the attorneys were on the line and I prepared the last and final map for creating the council districts in 1990 and that is how we settled the lawsuit. This experience is one of the many reasons Bob Filner should not be elected mayor, but I digress.
Concurrently, I became very upset with what I had observed and experienced and so I decided to organize and run a recall campaign and that is exactly what I did. I organized the committee to Recall Linda Bernhardt and when we were done, we took 74% of the vote as I recall. Jim and I dismembered Filner’s Gang of Five.
As we were developing the campaign strategy, we were under legal and political siege and I had to protect everyone that was helping me. The support came from every possible camp. The trick was to protect people so they were not subjected to retaliation and that is what we did. Jim and I would meet and he would give me these exhaustive treatises and studies and court cases and other exotic material that served as my road map. He also referred discreet confidants to me and we would meet at Tom Fat’s. Thanks to Jim, we broke the gang up and we rearranged the district maps and knocked the stuffing out of Filner.
He needs the stuffing knocked out of him again. We need to unite and elect Carl in memory of Jim.
From John Wainio…
I have an appointment with Jim Sills TODAY at 1:30.
He gave me a choice of two locations, both chosen because of their proximity to the Registrar of Voters.
I’ll use that time instead to think about the things I learned (or am learning) from Jim Sills …
1. Work hard and prepare – Back in the day, Jim was always the last guy to leave the council floor. When I would go in on a weekend as a young council aide, Jim was almost always there working away — to prepare for the week and outsmart his opposition.
2. Be your own person – Seersucker suits will always be cool.
3. Stand up for what you believe in — Jim NEVER hesitated to fight for positions and candidates he believed in … and it never mattered how uphill the fight was. He was always trying to move the ball.
4. Take pride in your work — A consummate professional, Jim always produced a quality product … but the real “value added” came when he provided the benefit of his experience, wisdom and instinct. Jim and I share a 2010 “Reed Award” from Campaigns and Elections Magazine for a mail piece based ENTIRELY on his work.
Jim Sills was an honorable man who will be greatly missed.
Jim and I were classmates at UCSD, then co-workers on the third floor in the County Administration Building and, in later years, collaborators on more campaigns than I can count. Jim was eccentric. He was a loner. He was also one of the most caring and conscientious people I’ve met in politics. I will miss him greatly.
Jim had an incredibly long history with local politics. I most enjoyed just listening to him tell stories from way back when. He had “the goods” on just about every local politician and could produce press clippings decades old on a moment’s notice. A true old school researcher. He will be missed.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jim a few years ago at the San Diego GOP office. Without Jim’s data-filled posts, Rostra just won’t be the same without him. Aside from being a stand-up individual and friend, Jim’s ability to find, encourage and work with Republican candidates will be a lasting legacy for our local party. God speed, Jim.
I first met Jim on the Issa for US Senate campaign in 1998. It was the beginning of a fourteen year friendship. Jim was sending me updates last week on the vote count for AD 76. Jim was so reliable that when I failed to receive one this week from him I blamed the Registrar of Voters for not updating the vote totals. I have so many good memories of this fine man, but one would always repeat itself year after year. Jim coming into my office, sitting down and opening up his briefcase. I knew then the fun was about to begin. Jim was a very special person who will be missed greatly.
I first met Jim Sills almost 12 years ago when our company needed help with a political campaign. I was fortunate to work with Jim for a few months, and because of his knowledge, skills and guidance we achieved our goal. Since then, we stayed in touch. His intelligence, history, integrity and passion made for a true superstar. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his activity on Rostra. If you go back and read through his postings, he always knew his stuff, he could back up his positions, and he never attacked anyone. He will be greatly missed. He and his family are in my thoughts and prayers.
My husband and I met Jim about 16 years ago while students at SDSU. We would sit with him at the computer in the library so he could use Lexis Nexis for his opposition research.
We learned so much from Jim. Not only could Jim recite every starting lineup for the Baltimore Orioles from the beginning of their franchise to current time, he also had more knowledge of San Diego politics than anyone I’ve ever met. As young political science students, we were enthralled with Jim’s stories.
I saw Jim recently at an event and he was sure to ask about how my husband was doing and to send him regards. That was the type of person Jim was, he never forgot about anyone. He had a mind like no other.
Jim was a great man and will truly be missed by many.
Marie Waldron, Deputy Mayor – Escondido…
It is with great sadness that I hear about the loss of a true icon of San Diego politics — Jim Sills. I first met Jim back in 1991 (21 years ago!) as our paths crossed working on the same side in a political campaign in San Diego. He was then, as he was now, a plethora of information and statistics, with a great historical perspective and a sharp political mind. I always knew that Jim would be the go-to guy for any information or background history on any political issue.
I always remember Jim carrying his huge briefcase full of stats whenever we had meetings or even at Central Committees. He would always pull me aside to tell me the latest information he had gathered regarding my campaign, and I always knew he would be interested in any intelligence I had gathered in the political world. It was like he could process that data and file it in his mind!
Jim was invaluable during the redistricting process that took place last year, always sending updates and info just as soon as they were made available to the public – I don’t know how he did it – like he was in more than one place at one time! No matter what the email conveyed, he always signed off, “Your friend, Jim Sills.”
And personally, Jim was the nicest guy in the world! He was always very approachable, very open and honest as the day is long — a rare combination in the very combative world of politics. A true conservative and a nice guy!
While I am still in shock over his passing, I feel that words cannot convey the the true measure of tribute and appreciation due our dear friend, Jim Sills.
I first heard of the legendary Jim Sills 27 years ago while starting out as a receptionist in County Supervisor Susan Golding’s office. The “Sills stories” always had common threads: scary-smart and hyper-dedicated. A colleague described him as “willing” Bruce Henderson’s 1987 campaign to victory. He had a relentless approach to his work and to acquiring knowledge. Look up “encyclopedic knowledge” in an encyclopedia (I don’t believe Wikipedia is comparable) and there you’ll find an entry for Jim Sills, especially if the topic was San Diego politics. When he brought that knowledge to opposition research, the results were often dynamite. His oppo work will live on in upcoming campaigns. But one of the things I liked most about Jim was that he was a baseball fan. He would tell me stories about Ty Cobb. No, he wasn’t quite old enough to have watched Cobb play, but he appreciated the innovative and tactical mind of the Georgia Peach. Jim studied the Hall of Famer so intently that he could relate in detail a particular Cobb play that happened more than a century ago. Gentlemen like Jim Sills don’t come around often and he will be missed.
Jim would have been right at the center of his friend Gary Kreep’s ballot counting in the ultra-close Judicial election. That’s “Sills Time” at the ROV.
Eccentric. Knowledgeable. Passionate. Dedicated. Loyal.
Jim was an opposition researcher without equal and he became an avid blogger at Rostra.
He loved to break political news and analyze races. He was often first with the news of a candidate pulling papers, even before the person could get home from the Registrar’s office. Who needed to send a press release about their candidacy when they had Jim?
His use of Photoshop circa about 1998 sometimes made us all cringe, but it became his staple and we accepted it as “Jim Sills colorful.”
His “adventures in capitalization and bolding” often annoyed me, but if Jim decided a few words were more important than the others, who was to argue? He knew his stuff.
Jim’s consistent use of sports analogies was not out of viewing politics as a game, but out of seeing success in games as strategic, just like success in politics. He loved baseball maybe as much as politics, yet the difference was that politics was also his cause.
In the end, he was following the results of some close election contests, showing up at the Registrar late on Thursday for the updated counts. That he wasn’t there on Friday, nor up with a Rostra post that night, is the only clue we now have that something was wrong.
Godspeed, Jim. To use your words, “This Correspondent” will miss you.
It’s the 2012 version of Jim Sills that many speak about so fondly.
Well, the 1980s version was much the same. For a time Jim worked as a San Diego City Council rep, first for Bruce Henderson and later for Ed Struiksma.
My late business partner, Jim Johnston, and I operated the political consulting firm of Johnston & Lewis. We hired Jim numerous times … simply because he was the best, and just as importantly because you sure as hell didn’t want him working for your opponent.
RIP, Jim. You truly were one-of-a-kind.
Cathy Glaser, Registrar of Voters office…
I am so sorry to learn of Jim’s death. I had known him for just about my entire recently completed career at the ROV. During the “election season” he would come to the office on what seemed a daily (if not more often) basis and I could tell by the questions and research that he found something that would come to be important in the world of politics – though initially not apparent to others. It was always interesting to see what would result from his newly discovered bit of information buried in all of our stats and filings. Some of the funniest times were when he would run into someone who was not ready for their visit to the ROV to become public. (Good luck with that after being seen by Jim!) He was also a personal friend; years ago attending my housewarming party to more recently supporting me in my retirement with very kind and supportive words for the future. He had words of encouragement for our (Bob and I) empty nest as our kids left for college; one to UCSD (Jim’s college). He always knew at least a little something about every topic of conversation that came up. Since I left the ROV he’s one of the people I miss.
More to follow. In the meantime, here is some of the reaction to Jim’s passing from Twitter and Facebook: