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Public Service Suits Longtime Port Commissioner

Jess Van Deventer has devoted more than a third of his life to public service.

He spent 12 years as a National City appointee to the seven-member board of commissioners of the San Diego Unified Port District before retiring from that post in February. Before that, he served as a National City councilman for 17 & #733; years.

While putting in 40-hour workweeks as a Port District commissioner, Van Deventer ran two companies, which he still owns. Both Zancon Corp., a construction management firm, and J & S; Investment, which owns and manages commercial property in National City, Chula Vista and Kearny Mesa, are based in National City. Van Deventer has four full-time employees for both firms, and hires temporary workers, as they are needed, for construction jobs.

At 67, Van Deventer said the businesses don’t demand his full attention, and he looks forward to traveling to Africa with his wife, Sharon.

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They recently returned from a trip to Reno, Nev. and, before that, they flew to Alaska and returned to San Diego onboard a cruise liner.

The couple also plan to “fit in” a trip to Brazil, he said.

But Van Deventer still has a hankering for public service.

“No one from San Diego sits on the state Transportation Commission,” he said, adding that he’s applied for a slot.

Van Deventer said he wants the job because he’d like to see San Diego County “get more of its share” of roadway improvements.

“We have state Assembly members and state senators fighting for it, but it would help to have someone (local) on the commission,” he said.

One improvement Van Deventer wants to see is an Interstate 5 offramp to ease traffic congestion at the Port District’s Downtown cruise ship terminal, and at its Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, adjacent to Barrio Logan.

He said one of his major contributions as a Port District commissioner was improving relations with other county agencies and organizations.

“I brought in different entities, including chambers of commerce and the San Diego Economic Development Corp., to round-table discussions at the port,” he said.

One of the biggest changes that came during Van Deventer’s tenure at the Port District , aside from the split with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority , was the increase in its cruise line business.

“I remember when I started the port counted only about 20 cruise trips a year,” he said. “Now it has about 500 trips a year.”

In retrospect, he wishes that the state hadn’t spun the Airport Authority off from the Port District in 2003.

Van Deventer said the split simply created another layer of bureaucracy, and he’s not convinced that the underlying reason , to site a new airport away from Lindbergh Field , will become a reality.

“In my view, I don’t think the airport will ever be moved,” he said.

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