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

since December 12, 2017
Term length Four years, renewable once
Inaugural holder John W. Geary
Formation 1850
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.[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 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. On December 12, 2017, after Lee's sudden, unexpected death from a heart attack, San Francisco Board of Supervisors president London Breed assumed the role of acting mayor.[3]

According to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a special election will take place on June 5, 2018 to choose a new mayor to serve out the remainder of Lee's uncompleted term (until January 8, 2020); the Board of Supervisors may also vote to appoint an interim mayor to serve until the special election is held. If no action is taken by the Board, Breed will continue to serve as acting mayor until the special election, while also retaining her positions as supervisor and board president.[4][5]


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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] In 2007, the new system was implemented in the mayoral election for the first time.[9]

Salary and benefits

As of 2017, the mayor is paid an annual salary of $297,386,[10] the highest mayoral salary in the United States.[11] 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.[10]

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.[12][13]

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.[1]


Back and white photo of a bearded man wearing a suit
John W. Geary, 1st mayor of San Francisco
A bearded man wearing a suit and a bow tie
Isaac Smith Kalloch, 18th mayor of San Francisco
Back and white photo of a man wearing a suit sits on a chair
Washington Bartlett, 20th mayor of San Francisco
Back and white photo of a bearded man wearing a suit and a bow tie looking right
Adolph Sutro, 24th mayor of San Francisco
Back and white photo of a man wearing a suit and a bow tie
James D. Phelan, 25th mayor of San Francisco
A picture of Edward Robeson Taylor
Edward Robeson Taylor, 28th mayor of San Francisco
A woman wearing a suit and a necklace stands in front of a U.S. flag
Dianne Feinstein, 38th mayor of San Francisco
Gavin Newsom, 42nd 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.[14] (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 London Breed[f].


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.[15][16] 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 suffered a cardiac arrest. Dianne Feinstein is the only woman, Willie Brown is the only African American, and Ed Lee is the only Asian American to have been elected Mayor (current acting mayor London Breed, an African American woman, is serving as Mayor, but was not elected to her position).

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   Party
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[17]
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][f] January 11, 2011 December 12, 2017 Democratic
-- Breed, LondonLondon Breed (Acting) December 12, 2017 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
Mayor Mayoral term Other offices held References
Geary, John W.John W. Geary 1850-1851 Territorial Governor of Kansas (1856-1857)
Governor of Pennsylvania (1867-1873)
Webb, Stephen PalfreyStephen Palfrey Webb 1854-1855 Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts (1842-1844, 1860-1862) [20]
Van Ness, JamesJames Van Ness 1855-1856 California State Senator (1871) [21]
Blake, Maurice CareyMaurice Carey Blake 1881-1883 California State Assemblyman (1857-1858) [22]
Bartlett, WashingtonWashington Bartlett 1883-1887 California State Senator (1873-1877)
Governor of California (1887)
Phelan, James D.James D. Phelan 1897-1902 U.S. Senator from California (1915-1921) [26]
Rolph, JamesJames Rolph 1912-1931 Governor of California* (1931-1934) [23]
Shelley, John F.John F. Shelley 1964-1968 California State Senator (1938-1946)
U.S. Representative from California (1949-1964)
Moscone, GeorgeGeorge Moscone 1976-1978 California State Senator (1966-1975) [28]
Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein 1978-1988 U.S. Senator from California (1992-present) [29]
Agnos, ArtArt Agnos 1988-1992 California State Assemblyman (1976-1988) [30][31]
Brown, WillieWillie Brown 1996-2004 California State Assemblyman (1964-1995) [32]
Newsom, GavinGavin Newsom 2004-2011 Lieutenant Governor of California* (2011-present) [33]

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 Ed Lee, on 12 December 2017 (while still in office).

Mayor Mayoral term Date of birth
Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein 1978-1988 June 22, 1933 (age 84)
Agnos, ArtArt Agnos 1988-1992 September 1, 1938 (age 79)
Jordan, FrankFrank Jordan 1992-1996 February 20, 1935 (age 82)
Brown, WillieWillie Brown 1996-2004 March 20, 1934 (age 83)
Newsom, GavinGavin Newsom 2004-2011 October 10, 1967 (age 50)


  • 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.[34][35]
  • 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.[36][37]
  • c James Rolph resigned to become the Governor of California in 1931. The Board replaced Rolph with Angelo Rossi.[38]
  • 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.[28] She served the remainder of Moscone's term and was subsequently elected to two full four-year terms on her own.[39]
  • 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.[40]
  • f On December 12, 2017, Ed Lee died of cardiac arrest during his tenure as mayor. Board of Supervisors President London Breed became acting mayor.[41]


  1. ^ a b c "San Francisco Charter Code, EXECUTIVE BRANCH - OFFICE OF MAYOR § 3.101. TERM OF OFFICE". Retrieved . 
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  14. ^ City and County of San Francisco Municipal Code art. XIII § 101.5
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  19. ^ Cope, Michael (August 13, 2007). "Gettysburg unveils statue of Mt. Pleasant-native general". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved 2009. 
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  41. ^ "Ed Lee, San Francisco's First Asian-American Mayor, Dies at 65". The New York Times. December 12, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 

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