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Curran rose from stevedore to become mayor of San Diego (1963-1971), presided over a period of unprecedented economic growth that saw the sleepy naval town evolve into a gateway city for trade from Mexico, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. Curran served 16 years as a San Diego city councilman and mayor. He was first elected to the City Council in 1955 and served as a councilman until 1963, when the late Mayor Charles Dail, Curran's friend and political adviser, became ill and stepped down. Curran filed for the vacancy and was elected. He ran for a second four-year term in 1967, easily defeating former Councilman Allen Hitch by a 2-1 margin. A longtime Democrat who got much of his support from Republican businessmen, Curran was a true Southern California pioneer who envisioned San Diego as an international destination and helped achieve that result.