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Spotlight on Women: Kris Michell

President & CEO Downtown San Diego Partnership

By Joyce A. Glazer

Spotlight on Women: Kris Michell

Kris Michell

It seems that ever since you joined Downtown San Diego Partnership two years ago, you are rocking it. What drives you? San Diego and the people here. I am so passionate about our city, especially when we see the potential and what we could be. I looked at what the organization could be, not what it was. I am very lucky to have a supportive board. I am a get-it-done person, happier when we are being productive.

When you were recruited by DSDP, you were chief of staff for Mayor Sanders. Was it difficult to leave that position? Yes, because I have always been very fond of Jerry—but I knew he had a great team in place, and my leaving would not even be a blip. He was a bit angry at first, but he got over it. We are still friends.

Women are the majority of your staff. Is that intentional? No, I seek out talent, not [only] women. Every person has a place on the team. You have to play people in their right positions. Larry Lucchino taught me that, when I worked for the Padres to facilitate the campaign and entitlements for the downtown ballpark.

What keeps you awake at night? Are we doing enough? Are we doing the right thing? How can we do better? I worked for Mayor Susan Golding for four years as deputy chief of staff. I learned the ability to understand how to get something done. What’s the workaround? Have you looked 360 degrees?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment since joining DSDP? Really, the accomplishments are the staff and the team. Developing the strategic plan, setting a new course for downtown and beginning to implement. Homelessness is a huge issue in San Diego. We have a Work Your Way Home program. We have already sent 50 people home to their families, and we will continue to get people off the streets.

What are the drawbacks? Limited budget and limited staff. Our organization is very small for what we do.

What is DSDP’s vision for the future? Our population will increase by 1.3 million people in the next 40 years. This growth requires 400,000 housing units and 500,000 jobs. A significant number will be urbanites. My passion is to create a downtown attractive to millennials and to have a clean and safe downtown 24/7.

What other organizations are you involved with? I serve on the boards of the San Diego County Convention & Visitors Bureau, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, United Way, and San Diego Foundation Regional Vision Group, plus several other organizations where I hold membership. I also serve on the Ending Homelessness Leadership Team.

Who is your hero? Definitely my mom. I am the oldest of eight children. She not only worked outside the home, but she raised her family as well. She taught me wonderful life lessons.

What impact has Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg had on the advancement of women? I believe you can have it all. You just have to define what you want. There are always compromises in life. I communicate this to my employees as well. When I was working in Mayor Susan Golding’s office, I had two pregnant women I did not want to lose. I took a back office and turned it into a nursery. They were able to continue to work and take care of their babies as well.

How do you avoid burnout? Weekends at our beach cottage in South Mission. We ride bikes, no makeup, wear shorts and flip-flops. My nieces and nephews visit for weekends, and we all BBQ together. We completely relax. My dog, Cody, is the mayor of South Mission.

What is your future? Hopefully I will always be here, working for San Diego and making it a better place.

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