Voice & Viewpoint Profile of Ed Spriggs

Community Profile: Imperial Beach’s First African American Councilman Is Committed to Serving UCSD’s Black Student Population


Jun 28, 2015

By Latanya West – Contributing Writer

When Ed Spriggs first campaigned for Imperial Beach City Council back in 2010, his knuckles hurt from canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on door after door. His persistence, and a broad base of community support, won him a council seat as Imperial Beach’s first African American city councilman. Today, that same drive fuels his efforts to help UC San Diego’s students of color succeed against the odds.

Spriggs, who happens to be the only male African American city councilmember in all of San Diego County, notes, “African American students make up only 2% of the UCSD student population. Only a fourth of those are from San Diego.”

He would know. Spriggs recently retired after 13 years as UCSD’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Ed oversaw all Student Affairs operations and finances and played a key role in developing the campus’ “lively downtown” central area. He’s also a proud UCSD alum, and one of the first African Americans from San Diego to attend the university.

Recently, UC San Diego’s News Center reported a 13.5% rise in African American applicants for Fall 2015. It’s encouraging news, but it only reveals part of the tale. The #8 ranked U.S. public university has had some challenges consistently enrolling as well as engaging African American students in programs that can prepare them for success after UCSD. For Ed, serving the unaddressed needs of the black UCSD community is an understandably high priority. He was the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Originally from Minneapolis, the Spriggs family relocated to California when Ed was five years old. The greater Logan Heights community was his home (he attended Chollas View, Gompers and Morse). Then in 1965 he enrolled in UCSD and later graduated in 1970 with a B.A. in Economics.

It was a heady time. The Black Power Movement was blossoming and Spriggs became the first President of the Black Student Union. He and other students (Angela Davis among them) marched and rallied for higher enrollment and comprehensive changes to better serve students of color and their communities.

Ed searched for positive solutions, organizing fellow students of color to return to Lincoln, San Diego, and Morse High Schools to encourage youth to take college entrance courses. Their efforts helped lead to the creation of what is today known as Thurgood Marshall College at UCSD. “I was truly blessed to have come of age during that time, and it stuck,” he said.

Spriggs is forever grateful to the alma mater that launched his professional career. He went on to earn his law degree from New York University after working in community economic development in the San Francisco Bay Area, and practiced law with a major D.C. firm. For over twenty years he held a string of high-ranking posts in the Foreign Service, serving mainly in Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

Mentors changed the trajectory of Ed’s life and he readily returns the favor. He takes on several student mentees each year. Along with other black UCSD alumni, Spriggs reaches out to UCSD’s prospective students of color, calling to encourage them to attend the university, helping them with scholarships, and connecting them with campus resources once they arrive. When Ed talks about “catching them early,” gauging their needs, and keeping them on track to graduation, he gets a determined twinkle in his eyes.

You’d think his full schedule wouldn’t leave much time for golf, beach walks, or body surfing along Imperial Beach’s coastal waters with his wife Leah and any one of his four kids or seven grandkids. But leading a more balanced life is precisely why he moved to “one of the finest little communities you’re going to find anywhere,” as he calls it. Imperial Beach has been Spriggs’ home since 2001.

When asked about the role of race in his election and tenure as councilman, Ed says the issues have mattered most, both in his 2010 campaign and his recent November 2014 reelection. “People,” he says, “ are concerned about matters that affect their daily lives and want elected officials who address those issues. It’s not about race.” Public safety, environmental concerns, and responsible development head the list. He approaches city issues from a “strategic standpoint,” he says, “What are we trying to achieve? What is our goal here? Now, how do we get there?”

It’s a good bet he’ll devote that same determination that helped him carve out a piece of Imperial Beach history to making UCSD a welcoming place for African American students for years to come.

IB Political Mystery U-T Response

October 12 2014

Ed Spriggs response to U-T Editorial:

On October 10 the Union-Tribune published an editorial entitled “A political mystery in Imperial Beach.” The editorial posed an excellent question: why would a labor union headquartered in New York City spend tens of thousands of dollars on the Imperial Beach election, ostensibly on behalf of three candidates, including myself?

Many voters in Imperial Beach know by now that I was as surprised as anyone by the appearance of lawn signs and postcards containing the names of first time candidates, Dedina and Saldana, along with my own, an incumbent seeking reelection. When I discovered the source of funding for these materials AND the paid canvassers who are disseminating them, I called the UNITE HERE TIP State and Local Fund in New York, advised them I had no need for their help, and asked them to drop me from their campaign. DIG IB reported on this back on October 3rd.

The UNITE HERE TIP Fund agreed to my request a few days later. I announced their agreement to drop me from their campaign last Thursday at the Candidate’s Forum sponsored by the Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters. In the last day or two, I and others have noticed that the UNITE HERE red lawn signs no longer include my name. I thank them for being true to their word.

But the mystery continues, though I am no longer part of it. I do not know the answer but am as interested in finding answers as any other Imperial Beach voter. One clue is in the relationships. The UNITED HERE TIP FUND is affiliated with the UNITE HERE (Hospitality Employees Restaurant Employees) union, which in turn is affiliated with the San Diego Labor Council. The Labor Council has endorsed Spriggs, Dedina and Saldana in this election.

As an aside, I appreciate the endorsements from the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Labor Council. However, when it comes to campaign support, I oppose indirect, anonymous support from PACs and Super PACs, especially in local elections. For my own campaign, I am only interested in direct contributions, which I can utilize to shape my own campaign message, and for which I can be held fully accountable by my supporters. It is in that spirit that I appreciate the $100 contribution from SEIU Local 221. All other contributions to my campaign have been from individual supporters.

As to the motive for the large scale PAC involvement in this local election, I doubt that this outside, independent funding was intended to any significant degree to help my re-election effort. As an incumbent running for a second City Council term in a community that has done extremely well in recent years in attracting new businesses, reducing crime, making many capital improvements and promoting traditional and new public events that are popular in the community, my re-election campaign had no need for any external funding in the first place. Indeed, it is possible (but hopefully unlikely) that this funding fiasco has done me as much harm as good.

I remain puzzled by the amount of outside effort and funding involved in our City’s election. If someone has a solution to this mystery, please clue me in.

Ed Spriggs