SAN FRANCISCO (Tara Moriarty/KTVU) - She's the only female African-American mayor the city of San Francisco has ever had. Board of Supervisors President 43-year-old London Breed stepped up to fill the role after Mayor Ed Lee's untimely passing last month.
Since then, there's been rumblings throughout the marbled halls of One Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Place that the Board of Supervisors will vote to replace Breed with a "caretaker" mayor until the special election this June. Names like former City Controller Ed Harrington, and former mayors Art Agnos and Willie Brown have been floated around but City Hall insiders tell KTVU that the likelihood of a "caretaker" is unlikely since the Board is split 5-5 between progressives and moderates. It would take six votes to vote in someone else as interim mayor.
KTVU's Tara Moriarty sat down for an exclusive interview with the Acting Mayor who has not officially announced her decision to run but is rumored to file her paperwork before the January 9th deadline.
Moriarty met Breed at the Reverie Cafe on Cole Street, which is in Breed's supervisorial District 5. Breed is currently performing the duties of both Supervisor President and Mayor simultaneously. It's a task that some of her opponents have claimed is too difficult to pull off, but Breed, who's been in public service her entire career, shrugged off those concerns.
She warmly greeted constituents milling on Cole Street this New Years Day morning, many of whom shouted out, "Mayor Breed, we're proud of you!" Some stopped to ask political questions or snap a selfie.
Breed recounted the night she became acting mayor. In the wee hours of December 12th, she was woken up out of a cold sleep and told to head to the hospital. Mayor Lee had suffered what was reportedly a massive heart attack and the prognosis was not good.
"I texted my pastor and was like pray for me, pray for the mayor," she said. Lee was pronounced dead at 1:11 a.m. and in that instant, Breed was forced to assume his job. While still grieving for her friend, Breed made the announcement to a small group of reporters outside SF General Hospital at 3:30 a.m.
Less than seven hours later, she would break the sad news on a much grander scale, which went worldwide, on the Mayor's balcony at City Hall with dozens of video cameras rolling and shutterbugs clicking away.
"It was a really emotional time but I also felt an incredible responsibility," recalled Breed.
Breed was raised by her grandmother in Plaza East, arguably the toughest public housing at the time in the city's Western Addition.
"There was just a lot of hopelessness a lot of drugs, a lot of violence," she said. Watching television became Breed's escape.
"Seeing like the Bradys or seeing The Cosby Show and all these different things where I'm like wait a minute, people can live like that? And I wanted to live like that, I wanted something better," she explained.
Although she admits she got in trouble a lot at school, Breed was a scrappy kid. She believes certain people in the community saw something in her.
Jeff Mori, gave Breed her first paid gig at the tender age of 14 at the Mayor's Youth Employment and Training Program.
"Having people like [Mori] who was a part of that program at that time just really wrap his hands around me and support me and encourage me and tell me I could go to college made a difference," said Breed.
Under the Mayor's program, Breed worked at The Family School, a GED prep and testing center for female high school dropouts with children. There she met Minyon McGriff, Calvin Jones, Lisa Dyson, and Laura Luster who, along with her high school American History teacher Ms. Luke, would have a major impact on her decision to apply for college. She said there were teachers along the way at Ben Franklin Middle School and Galileo high school who molded her into a conscientious student including Lou Garrett, Stephanie Sears, and her french teacher Madame Schwartzott. Breed laughed when she recalled getting dragged into the office of Susan Crevillo, a school counselor who scolded Breed one more than one occasion. "I'd tell her, Miss Crevillo, I didn't do it!"
But because Crevillo held Breed accountable for her actions, Breed said she never wanted to "disappoint" her.
"All these people who met me throughout my life really pushed me and so it's why I went to college, it's why I came back and wanted to work in my community because I felt like there were too many young people that grew up the same way that I did who were falling through the cracks."
After graduating from Galileo, Breed went onto receive her bachelor's degree from UC Davis in 1997 and master's degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco in 2012. She's been in public service ever since.
In 2002, she became the executive director of the African American Art Culture Complex, where she raised more than $2.5 million to renovate the massive building. In 2004, Breed worked on the SF Redevelopment Agency Commission. Six years later, then Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to sit on the San Francisco Fire Commission. In 2012, Breed won the District 5 Supervisorial seat.
In 2015, Breed became the President of the Board of Supervisors, first by an 8-3 vote, then unanimously. Her supporters say she was born to be mayor.
"I think the homelessness, the quality of life, like I said, I grew up here and we've had our challenges, but what I'm seeing on our streets today is really on a different level," said Breed. She is not only focused on keeping the city up and running in the wake of the tragic loss of Mayor Lee, but she said she's tackling issues Lee himself championed such as homelessness, the car break-in epidemic and affordable housing for low income and the slowly-shrinking middle class.
"We can't take anything for granted, you can't take people for granted ," she told a small group of supporters who came to Cole Valley to shake her hand and wish her well.
In the past, Mayor Breed has been criticized by opponents for being "headstrong" and "outspoken," She doesn't offer any apologies. Once she even announced to her peers that she was no shrinking violet.
"When you grow up in poverty you have people make promises to you and they don't keep those promises, you're really sensitive to that... you're also sensitive to people who lie to you and so part of the way that I work, and the way that I am- I'm very direct."
Sometimes she's been too direct, according to City Hall insiders, who've bristled at what they call her blunt approach.
Tara Moriarty: What do you think you've sort of learned since those beginning days as a supervisor?
Breed: Oh my goodness (laughing) I've grown up a lot! In the beginning I was just being who I wanted to be and it was irresponsible because it distracted from the work that I needed to do for the people that I represented.
Breed said she now fully understands the weight of her words and works to build bridges "to get the job done."
"I had to grow up really fast," she said after just a few months as Supervisor. " I realized that if I'm going to be an effective elected official for the people I know I care about, delivering for them, I'm going to have to put aside my own personal issues in order to put them first."
Although Breed hasn't made an official announcement on whether she'll run for mayor in June's special election, she hinted.
"I'm seriously considering it and I've got to make a decision soon, I know the clock is ticking," she admitted.
At the end of our interview, Breed decided to visit with some merchants. The owner of the "Crepes on Cole" restaurant proudly led her to middle of the crowded room.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he bellowed. "The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed!"
To which dozens of customers enthusiastically clapped and cheered.
London Breed is clearly no shrinking violet; San Francisco's first African American woman has a lot to say and a lot to do.
She says she's ready. She's been waiting for this her whole life.