Mayor of San Francisco

Last updated

Mayor of the
City and County of
San Francisco
Flag of San Francisco.svg
Mayor Breed.png
London Breed

since July 11, 2018
Style The Honorable
Madam Mayor
Term length Four years, renewable once
Inaugural holder John W. Geary
Website Office of the Mayor

The mayor of the City and County of San Francisco is the head of the executive branch of the San Francisco city and county government. The officeholder has the duty to enforce city laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the legislative branch. The Mayor serves a four-year term and is limited to two successive terms. [1] Because of San Francisco's status as a consolidated city-county, the mayor also serves as the head of government of the county; both entities have been governed together by a combined set of governing bodies since 1856. [2]


There have been 45 individuals sworn into office. John W. Geary, elected in 1850, was the first mayor of the city. Charles James Brenham, who served as mayor during the 1850s, is the only person who has served two non-consecutive terms (excluding serving as Acting Mayor).

The current mayor is former District 5 Supervisor and President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed, who won a special election following the death of Mayor Ed Lee on December 12, 2017. Breed will serve out the remainder of Lee's uncompleted term (until January 8, 2020), after which she is eligible to run for two full terms of her own including the 2019 San Francisco mayoral election which she won. [3] [4]


The mayor of San Francisco is elected every four years; elections take place one year before United States presidential elections on election day in November. Candidates must live and be registered to vote in San Francisco at the time of the election. The mayor is usually sworn in on the January 8 following the election. The next election for a full mayoral term will be in 2019.

Under the California constitution, all city elections in the state are conducted on a non-partisan basis. As a result, candidates' party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, and multiple candidates from a single party can run in the election since a primary election is not held. [5]

Mayoral elections were originally run under a two-round system. If no candidate received a simple majority of votes in the general election, the two candidates who received the most votes competed in a second runoff election held several weeks later. [6] In 2002, the election system for city officials was overhauled as a result of a citywide referendum. The new system, known as instant-runoff voting, allows voters to select and rank three candidates based on their preferences. If no one wins more than half of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and second-choice votes (and third-choice votes, if necessary) are counted until a candidate captures the majority. This eliminates the need to hold a separate runoff election and saves money. This was first implemented in the 2004 Board of Supervisors election after two years of preparation. [7] In 2007, the new system was implemented in the mayoral election for the first time. [8]

Salary and benefits

As of 2017, the mayor is paid an annual salary of $297,386, [9] the highest mayoral salary in the United States. [10] Nine city public employees earned higher salaries than the mayor, including the chief investment officer and the managing director of the San Francisco Employees' Retirement System, who oversee the city's pension plan. [9]

Unlike a few other American cities, the San Francisco mayor does not have an official residence; in the 1990s, Mayor Willie Brown unsuccessfully pushed to acquire the Yerba Buena Island mansion formerly held used by U.S. Navy admirals as a ceremonial residence for the mayor. [11] [12]

Duties and powers

The mayor has the responsibility to enforce all city laws, administer and coordinate city departments and intergovernmental activities, set forth policies and agendas to the Board of Supervisors, and prepare and submit the city budget at the end of each fiscal year. The mayor has the powers to either approve or veto bills passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, participate in meetings of the Board of Supervisors and its committees, appoint a replacement to fill vacancies in all city elected offices until elections, appoint a member of the Board as acting mayor in his/her absence, and to direct personnel in the case of emergency. [1]


John W. Geary, 1st Mayor of San Francisco Gearysfmayor.jpeg
John W. Geary, 1st Mayor of San Francisco
Isaac Smith Kalloch, 18th Mayor of San Francisco Isaac Smith Kalloch.jpg
Isaac Smith Kalloch, 18th Mayor of San Francisco
Washington Bartlett, 20th Mayor of San Francisco Washington Bartlett.jpg
Washington Bartlett, 20th Mayor of San Francisco
Adolph Sutro, 24th Mayor of San Francisco Adolph Sutro by Brady.jpg
Adolph Sutro, 24th Mayor of San Francisco
James D. Phelan, 25th Mayor of San Francisco James D. Phelan - Mayor of SF 1910.jpg
James D. Phelan, 25th Mayor of San Francisco
Edward Robeson Taylor, 28th Mayor of San Francisco Edward Robeson Taylor.jpg
Edward Robeson Taylor, 28th Mayor of San Francisco
Dianne Feinstein, 38th Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein, official Senate photo.jpg
Dianne Feinstein, 38th Mayor of San Francisco
Gavin Newsom, 42nd Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom official photo.jpg
Gavin Newsom, 42nd Mayor of San Francisco
Ed Lee, 43rd Mayor of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Headshot Closeup (cropped).jpg
Ed Lee, 43rd Mayor of San Francisco

If the mayor dies in office, resigns, or is unable to carry out his/her duties and he/she did not designate an acting mayor, the president of the Board of Supervisors becomes acting mayor until the full Board select a person to fill the vacancy and finish the previous mayoral term. [13] (In the case that both the president of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor are incapacitated, the order of succession is followed. [1] ) This has happened seven times: James Otis died in office and was succeeded by George Hewston, [a] Eugene Schmitz was removed and succeeded by Charles Boxton, [b] Charles Boxton resigned and was succeeded by Edward Robeson Taylor, [b] James Rolph resigned and was succeeded by Angelo Rossi, [c] George Moscone was assassinated and was succeeded by Dianne Feinstein, [d] Gavin Newsom resigned and was succeeded by Ed Lee, [e] and Lee died in office and was succeeded by Mark Farrell. [f]


To date, 44 individuals have served as San Francisco Mayor. There have been 45 mayoralties due to Charles James Brenham's serving two non-consecutive terms: he is counted chronologically as both the second and fourth mayor. The longest term was that of James Rolph, who served over 18 years until his resignation to become the California governor. The length of his tenure as mayor was largely due to his popularity. During his term, San Francisco saw the expansion of its transit system, the construction of the Civic Center and the hosting of the World's Fair. [14] [15] The shortest term was that of Charles Boxton, who served only eight days before resigning from office. Three mayors have died in office: Otis died from illness, Moscone was assassinated, and Lee died from cardiac arrest. Dianne Feinstein and London Breed are the only women who have served as mayor, both of them by succession and by election; Willie Brown and London Breed are the only African Americans to serve to date; Ed Lee is the only East Asian American to serve as mayor; and three mayors have West Asian ancestry: Washington Bartlett (Sephardi), Adolf Sutro (Ashkenazi) and Dianne Feinstein (Ashkenazi). Thirteen mayors are native San Franciscans: Levi Richard Ellert, James D. Phelan, Eugene Schmitz, James Rolph, Elmer Robinson, John F. Shelley, Joseph Alioto, George Moscone, Dianne Feinstein, Frank Jordan, Gavin Newsom, Mark Farrell, and London Breed. Four mayors are foreign-born: Frank McCoppin and P.H. McCarthy (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, both born in what is now the Republic of Ireland), Adolph Sutro (Prussia, part of Germany since 1871) and George Christopher (Greece).

This list does not include acting mayors, of which there have been many, as an acting mayor is typically appointed by the mayor whenever he or she will be out of the city.

#MayorTerm startTerm end Party
1 John W. Geary May 1, 1850May 4, 1851 Independent
2 Charles James Brenham May 5, 1851December 31, 1851 Whig
3 Stephen Randall Harris January 1, 1852November 9, 1852 Democratic
4 Charles James Brenham November 10, 1852October 2, 1853Whig
5 Cornelius Kingsland Garrison October 3, 1853October 1, 1854Whig
6 Stephen Palfrey Webb October 2, 1854June 30, 1855 Know Nothing
7 James Van Ness July 1, 1855July 7, 1856Democratic
8 George J. Whelan July 8, 1856November 14, 1856 American
9 Ephraim Willard Burr November 15, 1856October 2, 1859American
10 Henry F. Teschemacher October 3, 1859June 30, 1863 Populist
11 Henry Perrin Coon July 1, 1863December 1, 1867 Populist
12 Frank McCoppin December 2, 1867December 5, 1869Democratic
13 Thomas Henry Selby December 6, 1869December 3, 1871 Republican
14 William Alvord December 4, 1871November 30, 1873Republican
15 James Otis [a] December 1, 1873October 30, 1875 Populist
16 George Hewston [a] November 4, 1875December 5, 1875Democratic
17 Andrew Jackson Bryant December 6, 1875November 30, 1879Populist
18 Isaac Smith Kalloch December 1, 1879December 4, 1881 Workingmen's
19 Maurice Carey Blake December 5, 1881January 7, 1883Republican
20 Washington Bartlett January 8, 1883January 2, 1887Democratic
21 Edward B. Pond January 3, 1887January 4, 1891Democratic
22 George Henry Sanderson January 5, 1891January 3, 1893Republican
23 Levi Richard Ellert January 3, 1893January 6, 1895Republican
24 Adolph Sutro January 7, 1895January 3, 1897Populist
25 James D. Phelan January 4, 1897January 7, 1902Democratic
26 Eugene Schmitz [b] January 8, 1902July 8, 1907 Union Labor [16]
27 Charles Boxton [b] July 9, 1907July 16, 1907Union Labor
28 Edward Robeson Taylor [b] July 16, 1907January 7, 1910Democratic
29 P. H. McCarthy January 8, 1910January 7, 1912Union Labor
30 James Rolph [c] January 8, 1912January 6, 1931Republican
31 Angelo Joseph Rossi [c] January 7, 1931January 7, 1944Republican
32 Roger Lapham January 8, 1944January 7, 1948Republican
33 Elmer Robinson January 8, 1948January 7, 1956Republican
34 George Christopher January 8, 1956January 7, 1964Republican
35 John F. Shelley January 8, 1964January 7, 1968Democratic
36 Joseph Alioto January 8, 1968January 7, 1976Democratic
37 George Moscone [d] January 8, 1976November 27, 1978Democratic
38 Dianne Feinstein [d] December 4, 1978January 7, 1988Democratic
39 Art Agnos January 8, 1988January 7, 1992Democratic
40 Frank Jordan January 8, 1992January 7, 1996Democratic
41 Willie Brown January 8, 1996January 7, 2004Democratic
42 Gavin Newsom [e] January 8, 2004January 10, 2011Democratic
43 Ed Lee [e] [f] January 11, 2011December 12, 2017Democratic
44 Mark Farrell [f] January 23, 2018July 11, 2018Democratic
45 London Breed July 11, 2018IncumbentDemocratic

Other offices held

The following is a list of congressional, gubernatorial and other offices held by mayors, before or after their term(s).

* Denotes those offices which the mayor resigned to take
MayorMayoral termOther offices heldReferences
John W. Geary 1850–1851 Territorial Governor of Kansas (1856–1857)
Governor of Pennsylvania (1867–1873)
[17] [18]
Stephen Palfrey Webb 1854–1855 Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts (1842–1844, 1860–1862) [19]
James Van Ness 1855–1856 California State Senator (1871) [20]
Maurice Carey Blake 1881–1883 California State Assemblyman (1857–1858) [21]
Washington Bartlett 1883–1887 California State Senator (1873–1877)
Governor of California (1887)
[22] [23] [24]
James D. Phelan 1897–1902 U.S. Senator from California (1915–1921) [25]
James Rolph 1912–1931 Governor of California* (1931–1934) [22]
John F. Shelley 1964–1968 California State Senator (1938–1946)
U.S. Representative from California (1949–1964)
George Moscone 1976–1978 California State Senator (1966–1975) [27]
Dianne Feinstein 1978–1988 U.S. Senator from California (1992–present) [28]
Art Agnos 1988–1992 California State Assemblyman (1976–1988) [29] [30]
Willie Brown 1996–2004 California State Assemblyman (1964–1995) [31]
Gavin Newsom 2004–2011 Lieutenant Governor of California* (2011-2019)
Governor of California (2019-present)
[32] [33]

Living former mayors of San Francisco

As of July 2018, six former San Francisco mayors are alive, the oldest being Dianne Feinstein (1978–1988; born 1933). The most recent mayor to die is Ed Lee, on 12 December 2017 (while still in office).

MayorMayoral termDate of birth
Dianne Feinstein 1978–1988June 22, 1933 (age 86)
Art Agnos 1988–1992September 1, 1938 (age 81)
Frank Jordan 1992–1996February 20, 1935 (age 84)
Willie Brown 1996-2004March 20, 1934 (age 85)
Gavin Newsom 2004–2011October 10, 1967 (age 52)
Mark Farrell (interim mayor)2018March 15, 1974 (age 45)


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