Many in San Diego have said for years that Bob Watkins had a promising future in elective office. He did of course serve on the County Board of Education, but that clearly was for him a low-level stepping stone to something higher profile, such as County Supervisor, State office, or even Congress.
As far back as 1988, Watkins toyed with a shot at State Assembly, but in more recent years hung his future on his stature as a well-known downtown establishment business type, GOP donor, Lincoln Clubber and member of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, while biding his time on the County Ed Board.
His appointment by the County to the Airport Authority, followed by Mayor Jerry Sanders’ trust in Watkins as the Chairman of the body, spoke to his reputation.
When the senior Duncan Hunter announced his retirement, Watkins was ready for an East County Congressional seat, but underestimated the power of the Hunter name to carry a junior to victory. He also sorely misjudged the expected momentum a downtown-oriented background and a slew of establishment GOP endorsements would mean in an East County seat, even when you live in Alpine. Inexplicably, he gave up the school board seat in the process, voluntarily handing away an elected title that might still serve him well someday, even if not Congress.
Yet, the respect was still intact, as well as the Airport Chair gig and a great rolodex.
In the last few weeks, the respect has gone out the window, with story after story of first class junkets on the public Airport Authority dime, a lack of public disclosure of potential financial conflicts of interest, and questionable forgetfulness about whether he was wining and dining a member of British Parliament or a family member at an expensive overseas Chargers exhibition extravaganza.
Given San Diego’s recent reputation as the Enron by the Sea, following major flaps with Duke Cunningham, Cheetah’s Strippergate and other soily incidents, Watkins’ apparent behavior is not just surprising, it is unacceptable. Forget higher office.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob says Watkins’ reappointment to the Airport Authority will not likely take place. Mayor Jerry Sanders will meet with him this week to get his side of the story. Courteous protocol, that’s nice.
When the public trust has been violated, no amount of obfuscation and dancing can easily restore it. Bob Watkins needs to do the right thing and resign. Short of that, Sanders and Jacob should insist on it.