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What women leadership means

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London Breed is seen during her election night party in San Francisco on November 7, 2016. (Wesaam Al-Badry/2016 S.F. Examiner)
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In December of 1979, shortly before Christmas, my kindergarten class at Frank McCoppin Elementary was scheduled to sing on the steps inside City Hall. Mayor Dianne Feinstein was going to be in the audience. I was thrilled — I knew who our mayor was and I knew my mom liked her.  

In the end, the concert happened and the mayor popped in for a bit but wasn’t able to stay for long. I remember my 5-year-old self thinking she should’ve stayed longer. And like every self-respecting San Franciscan, I had formed at an early age the ability to expect perfection from my mayor. But the point was this: she was my mayor.  

I was raised in a house run by a strong single mother in a city run by a strong, smart woman mayor. I’ve gone on to serve San Francisco in a number of capacities through the years, and I’ve often reflected on how growing up in a city run by a woman mayor influenced my life and career.  What I saw every day were women leading the way, making decisions, shaping policy and guiding both our city and my own family.  

The tragic loss of Mayor Ed Lee last month brought these memories back to me. A kind and decent man, Mayor Lee ushered San Francisco through a time of massive transformation. And one of the most consistent reflections I’ve had about him over the last month has been the scores of women who have come forward to honor Mayor Lee and acknowledge what he did to advance their careers: giving them promotions, professional advice, civic appointments, and the like.  

Quiet and understated, Mayor Lee was the father of two daughters and one of the most feminist mayors ever to serve our city. He was a man who stood up for women, helped them advance, and listened to them. He appointed me twice to the San Francisco Police Commission and encouraged me to lead the commission through some of the toughest times in recent history.

When I brought my daughters and mom to say goodbye to him at City Hall and pay our respects to our mayor, my two youngest daughters wrote in the memorial book, “I will miss you,” and “I will miss you, a lot.” I couldn’t agree more.

Then, as my family walked out of City Hall, we saw Acting Mayor London Breed leaving. She immediately approached my girls and struck up a conversation. Grace, who’s 8, whispered in my ear, “She’s nice.” And, at that moment, I remembered what it meant for a little girl to hear that the woman standing before her is her city’s mayor.
 
Mayor Lee stood with our community of women during some of the most pivotal and important moments we have had. And now, as we grieve his loss, our acting mayor is London Breed.

She is strong, smart and able to guide our city through this difficult time. As we make our way through the days and weeks to come, let us remember this: London Breed’s steady and strong leadership will mean something to all the girls growing up in San Francisco today. In fact, it might shape their futures.  

Suzy Loftus, a native San Franciscan and mother of three daughters, serves as legal counsel to the sheriff and is the former president of the San Francisco Police Commission. The views here are her own.

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