Mayor of San Francisco
|Mayor of the
City and County of
|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 mayor 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. 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.
There have been 42 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. The previous mayor, Gavin Newsom resigned to become the Lieutenant Governor of California on January 10, 2011. Ed Lee was appointed by the Board of Supervisors on the following day to finish out Newsom's term. Lee was elected to his own term on November 8, 2011.
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 the mayor 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.
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. 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. In 2007, the new system was implemented in the mayoral election for the first time.
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 personnels in the case of emergency.
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. (In the case that both the president of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor are incapacitated, the order of succession is followed.) This has happened six 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] and Gavin Newsom resigned and was succeeded by Ed Lee.[e]
To date, 42 individuals have served as mayor. There have been 43 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. The shortest term was that of Charles Boxton, who served only eight days before resigning from office. Two mayors have died in office: Otis died from illness and Moscone was assassinated. Dianne Feinstein is the only woman, Willie Brown is the only African American, and Ed Lee is the only Asian American to have served as mayor.
Eleven 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 and Gavin Newsom. Four mayors are foreign-born: Frank McCoppin and P. H. McCarthy (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, present-day Republic of Ireland), Adolph Sutro (Prussia, present-day Germany) and George Christopher (Greece).
This list does not include all 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.
|#||Mayor||Term start||Term end|
|1||Geary, John W.John W. Geary||May 1, 1850||May 4, 1851||Independent|
|2||Brenham, Charles JamesCharles James Brenham||May 5, 1851||December 31, 1851||Whig|
|3||Harris, Stephen RandallStephen Randall Harris||January 1, 1852||November 9, 1852||Democratic|
|4||Brenham, Charles JamesCharles James Brenham||November 10, 1852||October 2, 1853||Whig|
|5||Garrison, Cornelius KingslandCornelius Kingsland Garrison||October 3, 1853||October 1, 1854||Whig|
|6||Webb, Stephen PalfreyStephen Palfrey Webb||October 2, 1854||June 30, 1855||Know Nothing|
|7||Van Ness, JamesJames Van Ness||July 1, 1855||July 7, 1856||Democratic|
|8||Whelan, George J.George J. Whelan||July 8, 1856||November 14, 1856||American|
|9||Burr, Ephraim WillardEphraim Willard Burr||November 15, 1856||October 2, 1859||American|
|10||Teschemacher, Henry F.Henry F. Teschemacher||October 3, 1859||June 30, 1863||Populist|
|11||Coon, Henry PerrinHenry Perrin Coon||July 1, 1863||December 1, 1867||Populist|
|12||McCoppin, FrankFrank McCoppin||December 2, 1867||December 5, 1869||Democratic|
|13||Selby, Thomas HenryThomas Henry Selby||December 6, 1869||December 3, 1871||Republican|
|14||Alvord, WilliamWilliam Alvord||December 4, 1871||November 30, 1873||Republican|
|15||Otis, JamesJames Otis[a]||December 1, 1873||October 30, 1875||Populist|
|16||Hewston, GeorgeGeorge Hewston[a]||November 4, 1875||December 5, 1875||Democratic|
|17||Bryant, Andrew JacksonAndrew Jackson Bryant||December 6, 1875||November 30, 1879||Populist|
|18||Kalloch, Isaac SmithIsaac Smith Kalloch||December 1, 1879||December 4, 1881||Workingmen's|
|19||Blake, Maurice CareyMaurice Carey Blake||December 5, 1881||January 7, 1883||Republican|
|20||Bartlett, WashingtonWashington Bartlett||January 8, 1883||January 2, 1887||Democratic|
|21||Pond, Edward B.Edward B. Pond||January 3, 1887||January 4, 1891||Democratic|
|22||Sanderson, George HenryGeorge Henry Sanderson||January 5, 1891||January 3, 1893||Republican|
|23||Ellert, Levi RichardLevi Richard Ellert||January 3, 1893||January 6, 1895||Republican|
|24||Sutro, AdolphAdolph Sutro||January 7, 1895||January 3, 1897||Populist|
|25||Phelan, James D.James D. Phelan||January 4, 1897||January 7, 1902||Democratic|
|26||Schmitz, EugeneEugene Schmitz[b]||January 8, 1902||July 8, 1907||Union Labor|
|27||Boxton, CharlesCharles Boxton[b]||July 9, 1907||July 16, 1907||Union Labor|
|28||Taylor, Edward RobesonEdward Robeson Taylor[b]||July 16, 1907||January 7, 1910||Democratic|
|29||McCarthy, P. H.P. H. McCarthy||January 8, 1910||January 7, 1912||Union Labor|
|30||Rolph, JamesJames Rolph[c]||January 8, 1912||January 6, 1931||Republican|
|31||Rossi, Angelo JosephAngelo Joseph Rossi[c]||January 7, 1931||January 7, 1944||Republican|
|32||Lapham, RogerRoger Lapham||January 8, 1944||January 7, 1948||Republican|
|33||Robinson, ElmerElmer Robinson||January 8, 1948||January 7, 1956||Republican|
|34||Christopher, GeorgeGeorge Christopher||January 8, 1956||January 7, 1964||Republican|
|35||Shelley, John F.John F. Shelley||January 8, 1964||January 7, 1968||Democratic|
|36||Alioto, JosephJoseph Alioto||January 8, 1968||January 7, 1976||Democratic|
|37||Moscone, GeorgeGeorge Moscone[d]||January 8, 1976||November 27, 1978||Democratic|
|38||Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein[d]||December 4, 1978||January 7, 1988||Democratic|
|39||Agnos, ArtArt Agnos||January 8, 1988||January 7, 1992||Democratic|
|40||Jordan, FrankFrank Jordan||January 8, 1992||January 7, 1996||Democratic|
|41||Brown, WillieWillie Brown||January 8, 1996||January 7, 2004||Democratic|
|42||Newsom, GavinGavin Newsom[e]||January 8, 2004||January 10, 2011||Democratic|
|43||Lee, EdEd Lee[e]||January 11, 2011||incumbent||Democratic|
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
Living former mayors
As of February 2014, five former mayors are alive, the oldest being Dianne Feinstein (1978–1988; born 1933). The most recent mayor to die is George Christopher (1956–1964; born 1907), on September 14, 2000.
|Mayor||Mayoral term||Date of birth|
|Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein||1978–1988||June 22, 1933 (age 83)|
|Agnos, ArtArt Agnos||1988–1992||September 1, 1938 (age 78)|
|Jordan, FrankFrank Jordan||1992–1996||February 20, 1935 (age 81)|
|Brown, WillieWillie Brown||1996–2004||March 20, 1934 (age 82)|
|Newsom, GavinGavin Newsom||2004–2011||October 10, 1967 (age 48)|
- a In 1875, James Otis died of diphtheria during his tenure as mayor. Supervisor George Hewston became acting mayor until Andrew Bryant was elected to the office.
- b In July 1907, Eugene Schmitz was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The Board of Supervisors replaced Schmitz with Supervisor Charles Boxton who had also taken bribes. Boxton served for eight days before he resigned. The Board then replaced Boxton with Edward Taylor.
- c James Rolph resigned to become the Governor of California in 1931. The Board replaced Rolph with Angelo Rossi.
- d On November 27, 1978, George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White. Supervisor and Board President Dianne Feinstein was named acting mayor. She served the remainder of Moscone's term and was subsequently elected to two full four-year terms on her own.
- e Gavin Newsom resigned to become the Lieutenant Governor of California on January 10, 2011. Supervisor and Board President David Chiu briefly served as acting mayor until city administrator Ed Lee was unanimously appointed on the following day by the Board to finish out Newsom's term.
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