Following a months-long stand off between progressives and moderates on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Edwin Lee was unanimously voted in as interim mayor of San Francisco on Jan. 11. He replaces Gavin Newsom, who departed the office after winning the lieutenant governor’s race.
“It is an honor to represent and lead the city of San Francisco as Mayor,” Lee said in an email.
Lee has been part of the city’s political realm for a number of years. He started his career working for the City and County of San Francisco as an investigator for the city’s first Whistle Blower Ordinance. Since then, Lee has been involved in various city departments, including a post as director of City Purchasing, the director of the Department of Public Works and, most recently, as the City Administrator.
With the full support of the board of supervisors, Lee became the 43rd mayor of San Francisco and is the city’s first Asian American mayor.
“As a city, we have had a great number of Asian-American leaders that have served the City in various capacities,” Lee said. “That I have been given this opportunity to serve as the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco is a tribute to their achievements and leadership.”
The road to electing an interim mayor began in November. Members of the board of supervisors, as well as the public, voiced their opinions about whom and what they were looking for in the next mayor. The vote, however, was in the hands of the board.
After weeks of discussion, a decision was made and on Jan. 11, Lee was sworn in as mayor. The vote was a new experience to some, a relief to others and a unified decision by all.
New and old supervisors came together to back Lee because they believed in his work ethic and his experience in many of the city’s services.
District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd nominated Lee for the position of interim mayor. He said he didn’t want someone getting in by a mere 6-5 vote. He wanted to find someone that the supervisors could be united behind.
“We wanted someone who can walk in with the support of the supervisors, and it turns out he did,” Elsbernd said.
Newly elected District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell knew that the first big decision he and the rest of the new supervisors would have to make would be at their first meeting where they would choose the interim mayor. He, as well as the other supervisors, spent time researching the candidates and Lee was the one who impressed him the most.
Farrell was also fond of Lee’s decision not to run for mayor after finishing out the term. He found this to be positive for the city because it would consist of “outside of city hall campaigning that would be a disservice.” Lee would be able to keep his priorities and his focus to being mayor during the interim.
Both Elsbernd and Farrell found that Lee’s work in various departments made him the best candidate for interim mayor.
“(We) wanted someone who could hit the ground running and I feel that Ed Lee fit that profile,” Farrell said.
Elsbernd echoed the statement. He felt that since Lee has worked in so many departments for the city and has headed up many projects, he would be able to bridge the needs of the neighborhoods and politics of city hall together.
“As city administrator, I helped spearhead government efficiency measures and reforms that reduced the size and cost of government, from reducing the vehicle fleet to consolidating departments and back office functions to save tax dollars,” Lee said.
Elsbernd said Lee has the “breadth of experience that is really unparallel.”
That experience has given Lee the confidence to lead the city during the rest of the term.
“My main priority as mayor is tackling the $360 million budget shortfall heading into the new fiscal year,” Lee said. “My other priorities include finding a new police chief, preparations for our city to host the America’s Cup, pension reform, and implementing the local hire ordinance.”