Taxpayers Association announces Leslie as new President/CEO

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Press Release

SDCTA Selects W. Mark Leslie as New President & CEO
Longtime San Diego Executive has Proven Record of Success in Telecommunications Industry and Local Philanthropy

SAN DIEGO (June 20, 2014)—The San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s Board of Directors announced it selected W. Mark Leslie today as the organization’s new President & CEO.

Leslie, 61, is a longtime telecommunications executive who has been active in numerous civic and philanthropic efforts in San Diego, having most recently served as board chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (in 2012) and United Way of San Diego (in 2010-11).

“This is a homerun for San Diego’s Taxpayers. Our search committee set out to find a leader who is passionate about our ideals, understands our non-partisan taxpayer-oriented policy role, and owns a track record of accomplishments that generates excitement among our members and the community,” SDCTA board chair Greg Stein said. “We got exactly that with Mark Leslie.”

Leslie said: “I’m honored to be given the opportunity to lead the Taxpayers Association, the region’s leading independent taxpayer watchdog. The Taxpayers Association is consistently rated as one of the most influential and trustworthy public policy institutions, and I will do all I can to ensure that reputation is well-deserved for years to come.”

Leslie’s ties to the community and experience are an excellent fit for SDCTA, which routinely helps shape major public policy initiatives like school bond financing reforms and increases to the minimum wage.

“Our elected officials, as well as the residents of San Diego County, frequently make critical economic decisions that impact our communities for decades,” Leslie said. “SDCTA excels at identifying, analyzing and presenting to decision makers, and the public, the unvarnished facts that contribute to the best possible outcomes.”

Prior to retiring from AT&T in 2012, Leslie served as vice president of External Affairs – Southern California. He also served as chairman of the AT&T California State PAC. A leader and innovator in the telecommunications industry for 40 years, Leslie also has deep roots in San Diego, having lived here for more than a half-century.

As United Way’s Board Chairman, Leslie helped stabilize revenue, reversing a lengthy decline. He was a driving force in revamping the chamber’s budgeting and membership policies and was instrumental in developing the chamber’s most aggressive budget in 15 years.

After heading Membership and Finance committees for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leslie took over as Board Chairman two years ago. He currently serves as chair of the chamber’s Political Action Committee.

Leslie’s start in the telecommunications world began as a union member long distance switchboard operator. Through hard work and perseverance, he steadily advanced through the ranks.

At the Taxpayers Association, Leslie takes over for Interim President & CEO Sean Karafin, who took the reins when former President & CEO Felipe Monroig became a Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“I want to thank search committee Chairman Mark Nelson and Interim President & CEO Sean Karafin for stepping up to the plate and serving this Association so well during this transition period,” Stein said.

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Comments 11

  1. SDCTA has a history of supporting crony capitalism rather than representing the taxpayers’ interests. The most recent egregious example was their support of the disastrous Poway $1 billion capital appreciation bond, which has since been thoroughly denounced across the political spectrum as a complete ripoff.

    By hiring a Chamber of Commerce and highly regulated industry insider rather than someone with a history of principled representation of taxpayers, the SDCTA seems to be signaling that it’s more of the same.

    Virginia Republicans dumped the crony capitalist Eric Cantor. When will the San Diego County Taxpayers Association start representing taxpayers?

  2. These school bond campaigns are typically funded by the construction firms that will profit from them. These firms are often the same firms that are active in local Republican / “conservative” circles: Lincoln Club, SDCTA, etc. Check the boards of directors and see all the construction and development interests.

  3. Absolutely AWFUL selection.

    Mark Leslie supported the disastrous Prop D in 2010 – the Sales Tax hike and has always been a booster of government spending and corporate welfare.

    After the great progress made under Lani Lutar, this is a complete surrender by the SD Taxpayers Association to tax-and-spenders who created the fiscal crisis at City Hall.

  4. Riddle me this, Details.

    Whose campaign did Lani Lutar manage in 2003-2004, prior to coming to SDCTA in 2005?

  5. As a grunt member of the SDCTA, I can say that there’s always that conflict within the organization — “good government” vs. taxpayer advocates. Yes, there is overlap in those two goals, but it’s an ongoing conflict.

    I do what I can to push the group towards small government, pro-taxpayer positions, and I’m not alone. Since I joined, I’ve been reasonably pleased with their positions and approach — but not always, by any means.

    Of course, I’m a prickly guy within an innate tendency towards intolerance of those who deign to disagree with me. It’s a rocky road in part because I MAKE it rocky!

    It’s like being a member of the GOP — there are areas of strong disagreement. One can quit, or one can fight for one’s viewpoint within the group. So far, I choose that latter in both cases, arguably with some limited degree of success.

    You folks might want to consider doing the same. We could always use more limited government, low tax advocates within SDCTA. And the GOP, for that matter.

  6. Answer: Lani worked for Scott Peters. The point? Lani was carrying out the policies of her board at SDCTA. She did it very well, in an era of pension reform. Mark Leslie also knows how to carry out policy directives.

  7. “So far, I choose that latter in both cases, arguably with some limited degree of success.”

    But the few victories are sweet, RR. If we string enough of them together, it might just be a movement then, if we’re lucky, a shift of opinion !

    “You folks might want to consider doing the same. We could always use more limited government, low tax advocates within SDCTA. And the GOP, for that matter.”

    Best advice I’ve heard all day. Let me add that, if you join us, you’ll lose more battles than you win but each win matters.

  8. “Check the boards of directors and see all the construction and development interests.”

    While you’re at it, check the boards of directors and see all the (fill in the blank)…


    -Healthcare interests



    In fact, check the boards of directors and see all the…



    -Those who pay taxes

    Appalling, isn’t it, that businesses paying taxes would be interested in matters which impact them?

    “These school bond campaigns are typically funded by the construction firms that will profit from them.”

    I can’t argue that. Yet, is it also possible that the construction industry is interested in being involved in SDCTA and other boards because just how much new legislation at the local and state level potentially impacts them?

    That said, please cite one instance in which a member of the board of directors of SDCTA voted on a school bond or other organization position in which they had a direct financial interest in the outcome.

    They don’t, because of a clear cut conflict of interest policy. With close to 60 on the board, there are usually enough left to still come to a conclusion on each matter. 😉

    Richard Rider and Brian Brady make a lot of sense.

    The outcome of the SDCTA process on each matter is not always something with which I agree. I choose to be involved for many reasons, not the least of which is to ensure my interests are expressed and heard during the process.

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