How did Christian businessman Ken Moser end up on the board of the San Diego Community College District? Well, the climb to leadership of a three-campus, 54,000-student, $250 million-a-year government began with four key influences:
- Junior Achievement
- Boy Scouts of America
- Star Trek
- 10-cent suckers
Moser was elected one of the five trustees of this sprawling district in 1996, while being out-spent, and running as an unabashed “back-to-basics” conservative. He was endorsed by pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment groups, but also built alliances with key leaders of the union representing college professors.
The district includes San Diego City College, Mesa College, and Miramar College where many a future policeman or deputy sheriff take their criminology courses.
Looking back on an idyllic childhood in Richfield, Minn., Moser attributes some of his interest in politics to his big brother Bob. “I was a Star Trek fan, but Bob insisted on turning the TV news on, even when Captain Kirk was demanding more power from Scotty. To my surprise, I was fascinated by what I saw about national and world affairs, and was hooked for life.”
The 10-year-old Ken Moser then absorbed the conservative political philosophy of his father.
“By the time I got to 9th grade, I was known in school as Mr. Republican.”
Moser’s youthful energy also led him into the Boy Scouts where he reached the rank of Star Scout and was named senior patrol leader.
Enter Junior Achievement, the national organization that teaches young people how the free enterprise system works, and does so best by helping them organize their own small companies and selling products.
“When I got into high school, what really molded my mind was when I joined Junior Achievement. I was president of my company each year and named ‘President of the Year’ by the Minneapolis chapter of JA.”
In fact, Moser reached the national semifinals and received a scholarship from the Harvard Business School society.
What magical product put Moser’s young company on the map? “The one that made me famous as a sophomore in high school was dime suckers. I was descended on each day before lectures by people wanting ‘Charm’s Blow-Pops.’ I sold over 5,000 suckers that year and was known as ‘The Sucker Man!'”
Moser moved to San Diego in 1984, arriving the day of Ronald Reagan’s final reelection rally at Fashion Valley, which he attended and considered a favorable omen. He began attending Republican Central Committee meetings and became precinct chairman for the Mira Mesa-Miramar area.
In 1991 Moser helped lead the first successful recall (removal) of a San Diego city council member in 75 years. Incumbent Linda Bernhardt was recalled by a 72% majority, but Moser lost his bid to succeed her in a replacement race printed on the same ballot. What did he learn from this combined success and setback?
“I got a Ph.D. in political science. It showed me grass roots politics in its best and its worst form.”
Moser put these hard-earned lessons to good use in 1996 with a strong pitch for absentee voters, and a clear-cut endorsement of the controversial California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) right in the Statement of Qualifications published in the sample ballot. He surprised leaders of the district’s professors’ unions by bidding for their support and demonstrating a clear understanding of the colleges’ mission and problems.
Moser credits his first college credential, from a Minnesota community college, with putting him in tune with the teachers.
In his first few months, Moser has made strides in furthering the use of computers in education and reducing conflict between employee groups and administrators. Students learned they had a new champion when Moser defeated a $129,000 parking tax increase. His fellow trustees took heart from Moser’s low-key, friendly style and backed his proposal that each trustee should be able to place items on the board’s monthly agenda at will, along with other changes to the board’s operating policy.