Ed Lee getting sworn in as City Administrator by Gavin Newsom

Ed Lee, on the verge of winning San Francisco’s interim mayor sweepstakes, has a long and interesting history in city government. Mayor Art Agnos brought Lee into his administration in 1989, where he eventually became director of the Human Rights Commission. (Full disclosure: I worked for Mayor Agnos as press secretary).

Ed Lee is a decent public servant, a straight-shooter with strong integrity — a trait that got him in trouble with Mayor Willie Brown.

In 1996, Lee was in charge of certifying minority contractors to do business with the city. Brown — who liked doling out lucrative city contracts to political pals — wanted Lee to certify a couple of the mayor’s friends for trucking contracts. Lee reportedly refused because the cronies didn’t meet all the city standards. Despite intense pressure from Willie Brown, Lee held firm. Brown — not used to being told “no” — assigned someone from his administration to “monitor” Lee’s HRC operation. Eventually Brown “promoted” (Read: pushed out; see Matier & Ross item here near bottom) Lee to City Purchaser. Brown later put him in charge of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works.

Lee is a protege of Chinatown dynamo Rose Pak. The foul-mouthed political activist (“mother f…er” is one of her favorite expletives) wields a heavy club in city politics. The former SF Chronicle reporter is also close to Willie Brown, who despite being out of office for seven years, still pulls a lot of strings in city politics.

You can be sure Lee wouldn’t be on the verge of being mayor without the blessings of Pak and Brown.

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