Mayor of San Francisco

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]

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

since July 11, 2018
StyleThe Honorable
Madam Mayor
Term lengthFour years, renewable once
Inaugural holderJohn W. Geary
WebsiteOffice of the Mayor

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 served 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 2023.

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 benefitsEdit

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 powersEdit

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
Isaac Smith Kalloch, 18th Mayor of San Francisco
Washington Bartlett, 20th Mayor of San Francisco
Adolph Sutro, 24th Mayor of San Francisco
James D. Phelan, 25th Mayor of San Francisco
Edward Robeson Taylor, 28th Mayor of San Francisco
Dianne Feinstein, 38th Mayor of San Francisco
Gavin Newsom, 42nd Mayor of San Francisco
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.

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

Other offices heldEdit

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
John W. Geary 1850–1851 Territorial Governor of Kansas (1856–1857)
Governor of Pennsylvania (1867–1873)
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)
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)

Living former mayors of San FranciscoEdit

As of December 2020, 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).

Mayor Mayoral term Date of birth
Dianne Feinstein 1978–1988 June 22, 1933 (age 87)
Art Agnos 1988–1992 September 1, 1938 (age 82)
Frank Jordan 1992–1996 February 20, 1935 (age 85)
Willie Brown 1996-2004 March 20, 1934 (age 86)
Gavin Newsom 2004–2011 October 10, 1967 (age 53)
Mark Farrell 2018 March 15, 1974 (age 46)


  • 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.[27] 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 served as acting mayor until January 23, 2018 when Supervisor Mark Farrell was appointed interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors.[41][42]


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  • "Agnos Is Mayor No. 39, Archivist Confirms". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications Inc. December 10, 1987. p. A 16.
  • "City and County of San Francisco Municipal Code". City and County of San Francisco. 1996. Archived from the original on September 29, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
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