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.

Who is Ed Lee? Scott Shafer Elucidates 6 January,2011Scott Shafer


Scott Shafer

Scott Shafer migrated to KQED in 1998 after extended stints in politics and government to host The California  Report. Now he covers those things and more as senior editor for KQED’s Politics and Government Desk. When he’s not asking questions you’ll often find him in a pool playing water polo. Find him on Twitter @scottshafer

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