Supervisors choose City Administrator Edwin Lee for interim mayor

SF Public Press
 — Jan 7 2011 - 9:10pm

Reaction from Mayor Gavin Newsom on vote for interim from SF Public Press on Vimeo.

In the final session for the outgoing Board of Supervisors, City Administrator Edwin Lee was named interim mayor Friday on a 10-1 vote.

Lee will be the first Chinese-American to hold the city’s highest office. Lee, who has been city administrator since 2005, also served as director of the Department of Public Works, City Purchasing Department and Human Rights Commission.

The chamber was packed with leaders of the Chinese-American community. Cheers erupted as the historic vote was cast. 

“This is a person with integrity, competency and the only candidate that did not ask for the position — this was a recruitment,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said after the vote. Newsom said he was planning next on working on the appointment of a new district attorney.

The meeting was called at Supervisor John Avalos’ request so that the board could hear from Lee himself. Avalos, Board President David Chiu and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said they had phone discussions with Lee, who was traveling abroad, after Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We have engaged in an orderly transition of leadership,” Chiu said. “This is what separates our free society from less free societies.”

Outgoing Supervisor Chris Daly was the sole dissenter. Daly took issue with the sudden consideration of Lee when it was not apparent until Tuesday that he was interested in the office.

“As candidate Obama said articulately as anyone else, ‘we need change,’” Daly said. “And I think more than ever we need that kind of change. What we have before us today is not that kind of change. It will not address the fundamental injustices in San Francisco. It’s business as usual.”

The only other candidate considered was Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who was rejected by the board 9-2. Mirkarimi withdrew his nomination of former Mayor Art Agnos. Aaron Peskin, a former supervisor and chair of the city’s Democratic Party, declined his nomination.

The vote brought a coda to a two-month political drama that began when Newsom was elected as lieutenant governor in November. He was scheduled to take office in Sacramento on Jan. 3, but delayed it one week. Meanwhile, the supervisors’ discussion on who should serve the remaining year of Newsom’s term were continually delayed. Nominations were not taken until last Tuesday’s board meeting.

The vote for Lee will be formally ratified on next Tuesday’s meeting by the new board, after three new members are inaugurated Saturday at City Hall.

Newsom said he would take his oath as lieutenant governor Monday around 1 p.m., leaving the mayor’s office for Lee.