San Francisco City Administrator Ed Lee released a statement today saying he will agree to serve as interim mayor if he is selected by the Board of Supervisors.
Lee, who is overseas, appears to have enough votes from the board to replace outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who will be sworn in as the state's lieutenant governor sometime before Monday.
The board spent several hours Tuesday deciding who should replace Newsom, with vociferous debate taking place between the progressive and moderate factions of the board. The progressives had nominated Sheriff Michael Hennessey while the moderates favored Lee.
Just as it appeared likely that Lee had the six votes necessary to be nominated, several progressive board members requested a continuance until Friday in order to discuss the appointment with Lee, who is reportedly on vacation in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Lee had not commented on the interim mayor position until today when he released a statement that was read by Gordon Chin, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center at a news conference in Chinatown.
"The mayor, various supervisors and members of the public have approached me about serving in this position," Lee said in the statement. "I love this city, and will agree to serve as mayor, if that is the will of the Board of Supervisors."
Lee said, "We must balance the city's budget without jeopardizing the social services our people depend on...If appointed, I pledge to spend my energies to balance the budget, create jobs, and make our city more financially secure. And, I will do my best to accomplish these goals without disrupting basic city services."
Newsom, who said Wednesday that he approves of the possibility of Lee as interim mayor, reiterated his support today while speaking with reporters before swearing in a handful of city commissioners.
"This is someone unlike anybody else, who could hit the ground running," he said. "He knows the inner workings of this government better than anybody else."
Lee has served as city administrator since 2005 and has also served as director of the city's Department of Public Works and the Human Rights Commission.
Chin, who read Lee's statement, was one of several people who lauded him at what was termed a "pre-celebration" of his potential selection as interim mayor. If selected, Lee will become the first Chinese-American mayor of San Francisco.
"I knew when the Giants won the World Series that anything was possible," Chin said. "After that, Jean Quan became mayor of Oakland," also the first Chinese-American to be mayor in that city, "and today we stand at the precipice of another historic occasion."
Newsom acknowledged that there's a lot of excitement in the Chinese-American community about Lee's potential appointment.
"This would be a historic moment," he said. "You think back to the Chinese Exclusion Act, you think about the history of the city and how we treated the Chinese-Americans who built San Francisco ... that's a pretty extraordinary thing."
The current board is expected to vote on the interim mayor on Friday, but the nomination won't be official until Newsom leaves office.
Newsom has pushed back the Jan. 3 date of his swearing-in as lieutenant governor. He claims he did so because he has more to accomplish while in office, but progressives say Newsom simply wanted to prevent the current 11-member board from appointing an interim mayor with a far-left political agenda.
Four new board members will take office on Saturday, and the board is expected to officially select the interim mayor this Tuesday, Newsom said.
"In so many ways it should be obvious, to even those members that had another choice, that (Lee) is the best choice, and I'm hopeful they'll exercise that next Tuesday when the real vote takes place," he said.