Mayor swaps an Alioto for a Feinstein on the Fire Commission

In dynastic fashion, one mayoral descendent is replacing another on a city commission.

Joe Alioto Veronese (Courtesy photo)

Alioto. Feinstein. It’s not like San Francisco’s actually an aristocracy… but if it were, those names would be among its most storied.

In dynastic fashion, one mayoral descendent is replacing another on a city commission.

Joe Alioto Veronese is ending his three-year term on the San Francisco Fire Commission, this columnist has learned, at the behest of Mayor London Breed.

Thursday afternoon, Breed is expected to swear-in Judge Katherine Feinstein to Alioto Veronese’s seat.

On Guard column header Joe

So how do they connect? Feinstein is the daughter of Senator Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco’s first woman mayor, who assumed the role amid the terror of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassinations. Alioto Veronese is the grandson of noted union favorite Mayor Joe Alioto, who took office in 1968.

“I had the time of my life working for one of the greatest institutions San Francisco has, the fire department,” Alioto Veronese told me Wednesday. As for his family’s background serving The City, he said “carrying on the legacy is certainly important, but it comes more from a love of this city and seeing the direction it’s going in that drives me to service.”

Now, this is not to say these folks haven’t carved their own paths. Far from it. Judge Feinstein is a former prosecutor who also served as an attorney for police officers accused of wrongdoing and in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. She was appointed to San Francisco Superior Court in 2000.

And Alioto Veronese, who served on the California Council on Criminal Justice and considered a run for district attorney, is leading a foundation to raise money for first responders suffering from work-related ailments, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Feinstein, in a statement put out by The Mayor’s Office, said “Many thanks to Mayor Breed for the honor and privilege of serving on this very important commission … I look forward to working towards ensuring that the San Francisco Fire Department remains the finest in the world, especially given the expanded and increased demand for their critical services.”

There’s word that the Mayor’s Office was hoping to enact some different policies than the ones Alioto Veronese pursued on the Fire Commission, perhaps getting rubbed the wrong way when he struck out on his own to pursue particular initiatives without building a groundswell of support first.

He’s even appeared on Fox News as a talking head — a channel not too favored among liberal San Franciscans — which rattled a few chains, I’m told.

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment on that chatter, but Alioto Veronese arguably had a year left to his term.

He was gracious about it, at least.

“No hard feelings at all,” he said. “You typically see a lot of moving around when mayors move in who have their own mandates.”

Alioto Veronese also encountered challenges enacting policies, including seeking drones for fire department use to help them identify people trapped on San Francisco’s cliffs. This is vital, he told me, because the difference between emergency personnel saving a life on a cliffside can often come down to mere seconds.

“I can’t tell you how many initiatives I’ve tried and was immediately told no, you can’t do that,” he said. The drone effort may drag on for another year or two, he said.

Side note: Feinstein wasn’t the only appointment to the Fire Commission Wednesday. Breed also reappointed Fire Commission President Stephen Nakajo, who was first appointed in 1996 by Mayor Willie Brown.

Breed also appointed Tony Rodriguez, who grew up in the Excelsior and is a fire prevention expert with 35 years in the sprinkler fitting industry, to the fire commission. Rodriguez (what a great name!) will replace commissioner Michael Hardeman.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

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