Giving Back Magazine recently sat down with First Lady Katherine Stuart Faulconer for a candid interview.

Tell our readers a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over the world. My father was a Naval Intelligence Officer and my family moved a lot due to his career. I have lived in Tennessee, Virginia, Northern and Southern California, Japan and the Philippines. I graduated from Menlo College in Atherton, moved to San Diego shortly thereafter and happily settled here ever since.

What was your first job out of college? Tell us a little about your career path.

I like to think of my career choices as a ladder; I worked my way up one step at a time. I always encourage our kids to be persistent and to go after their goals in life because the opportunities to rise are endless when you work hard. My first job was at the Doubletree in downtown San Diego, which is now the Westin. I was a hostess and also worked in corporate promotions. From there, I moved into sales and then took a job at Planet Hollywood as an event planner. I loved that job so much that I decided to start my own business doing events. I founded Restaurant Events, Inc., and have continued doing event planning for various restaurants in San Diego. It is a perfect fit for my skill set and personality, and I enjoy every moment of being a small businesswoman, doing what I love.

Everyone likes a good love story. How did you and the Mayor meet?

That is a funny story, actually! We met at a networking event at the 32nd Naval Station in 1997. It was a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau mixer, when Kevin came up me and introduced himself. He was so funny and outgoing – I liked him immediately. Shortly thereafter, he asked me for help with one of his upcoming events, and we met a few times and really hit it off. What can I say, we were and still are a great match. The rest is history!

What are some accomplishments that you and the Mayor are most proud of?

As Honorary Chair of the non-profit One San Diego, I am most proud of how much we have been able to accomplish in one short year. Kevin and I launched One San Diego with the help of some visionary and big-hearted local leaders because we wanted a community organization out there every day furthering Kevin’s mayoral goal of uniting our city. One San Diego is about making our neighborhoods better – all of them. Making them safer, more vibrant and more connected. Our mission is to elevate everyone’s opportunity to succeed – no matter what neighborhood, community, or area they live in. What has been so incredible is seeing the positive domino effect that One San Diego has catalyzed, through our partnerships with other non-profits, companies and individuals. Since starting One San Diego, countless private entities have joined us in helping us make our shared goal of creating one united and elevated city – full of promise, hope and opportunity – a reality.

How did One San Diego come to be?

After Kevin was elected, we each wanted both of us to play an active part in celebrating San Diego’s neighborhoods, which all have such unique history and character, and each face their own unique challenges. At the same time, there were a lot of civic leaders that heard Kevin talk about creating “One San Diego” on the campaign trail, about bridging the gap between San Diego’s northern communities and southern communities, and wanted to be a part of making that a reality. So when they said they were inspired to create a non-profit committed to the mission of creating One San Diego, a unified San Diego with strong communities, it made perfect sense. For me, I wanted to help make a real difference, and I saw One San Diego as the natural way to do that.

What accomplishments is One San Diego most proud of?

Everything we have done under the One San Diego umbrella has been an accomplishment! I am so proud of what the non-profit has been able to do in such a short amount of time. We have been working to make a real, meaningful impact on families – from giving away backpacks filled with school supplies to children in Barrio Logan, to hosting career days for high schoolers, to donating laptops to local libraries for students to do their homework on, to holding community forums on job opportunities – just being honored with the opportunity to be a part of San Diegan’s lives in a meaningful way brings us so much joy.
Recently, we hosted our first of five Better-A-Block parties, where I was able to put my event planning skills to work. We brought Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, the Fire Department, community health organizations, the Rock Church and St. Jude’s Catholic Church together added a snow cone truck and some face painting stations and sprinkled in a little music to throw a really fun block party in Southcrest. Over 300 residents joined us, and it was great to see emergency first responders and law enforcement officers come together with the community in a positive and festive atmosphere. We also recently hosted a career connections day, where we introduced students to potential career paths where Kevin and I spent time talking about our first jobs. We really connected with the kids and shared our own stories of failures and success, and I hope we were able to show them there are a lot of different ways to get to where you want to go in life.

What are you and the Mayor looking forward to in the future?

There is still so much we want to do to move our city forward. I think the great results we have seen so far, both in Kevin’s work getting the city back on track and bringing a real focus to neighborhood improvement, and with One San Diego’s community work, are just the beginning. And that really energizes us to work even harder, to serve each and every one of our neighborhoods.

Is there anything specific that you would like to achieve in our community?

There is still so much that we want to achieve, I would not be able to list just one or two specific goals. It always feels like there is more to do, and we love doing as much as we can. Our highest priorities right now are increasing job and educational opportunities for all San Diegans, and improving the safety of our neighborhoods so that everyone feels secure enough to take full advantage of those opportunities. I think that actually being able to see that what you are doing is making a change in the community is an achievement in itself. Any change – big or small – that can make for a brighter future for just one child or individual is an accomplishment worth pursuing.

When you and the Mayor are not functioning in your official capacities, what are some of your favorite things to do?

Free time is hard to come by these days, between my business, our children’s extracurricular activities, and Kevin’s official duties as Mayor! Our son Jack just started playing lacrosse, and our daughter Lauren is involved in cheer and MADCAPS (a philanthropic mother-daughter program in Point Loma), so being involved in their activities is a priority and a joy for us. We love watching the kids play sports and, when we can find the time, watching movies together. Kevin and the kids like to surf occasionally, and as a family, we make outings to frozen yogurt a weekly event. Kevin has a real sweet tooth, and the kids are more than happy indulging it! It is amazing how much Kevin is able to pile into a self-serve pint – and watching the kids and Kevin try to out-do each other with outrageous flavor and topping combos makes me laugh and shudder at the same time. With so much going in our lives these days, simple moments like these, where our family just gets to enjoy each other’s company, matter most.