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Voice of the Year: Serge Dedina

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina has been arguing for years that governments on both sides of the border need to deal with sewage spills, but this year, a massive spill caught the nation and world’s eye and put Dedina on the map.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina walks along the beach. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Voice of the YearAll the mayors in America say they love their cities, but Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina’s passion comes across instantly and never seems to wane. He wants to make sure people see his city, but he also knows sometimes it’s the victim of a long-running international problem: sewage spills from Mexico.

Dedina, a surfer and environmentalist, has been arguing for years that governments on both sides of the border need to deal with the spills, but this year, a massive spill in February caught the nation and world’s eye and put Dedina on the map. The spills kept happening, too, either through the Tijuana River or into coastal waters, because of rain, inadequate infrastructure or both.

Yet Dedina keeps going back into the water, even though eventually he got sick.

Dedina’s not alone in his fight, but he’s certainly at the front of the line. He announced his city would sue the federal government to try to get it to do its part to keep Imperial Beach safe from sewage. Imperial Beach’s worries also helped prompt federal legislation and a new state law meant to help.

Dedina is progressive, but sometimes his concerns get picked up by conservative websites, like Brietbart. The spills feed into xenophobia, though some concerns, like whether the Tijuana River was contributing to the hepatitis A outbreak, were unfounded.

But Dedina kept away from that and focused on trying to fix a problem that has gone unsolved for far too long.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego in 2017.

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