Homeless czar takes helm of mayor’s staff

The mayor’s chief of staff, Phil Ginsburg, announced his resignation Thursday after 18 months managing the administration. The mayor’s czar on homelessness, Trent Rhorer, was named as his replacement.

Ginsburg, a labor lawyer who represented several Bay Area police unions for more than a decade, was instrumental in reforming The City’s civil-service system and negotiating labor contracts, including a 25 percent pay raise for police officers.

Days after he took over for Steve Kawa, the mayor’s previous chief of staff, Ginsburg navigated troubled waters when then-Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Tourk resigned after revelations of an affair between Newsom and Tourk’s wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk.

Ginsburg also was named in a subsequent investigation into whether Rippey-Tourk received preferential treatment when she was given $10,000 through The City’s catastrophic illness pay.

“When I accepted this position in December 2006, I did so during a time of transition for both of us,”Ginsburg wrote in his resignation. “With your second term well under way and my wife’s career as a doctor beginning this summer, it is now time for me to keep my commitments to my family.”

At a press conference Thursday at Saint Francis Hospital, Ginsburg wore a wide smile.

“He actually stayed with us a little longer than he originally had expected to,” Newsom said of Ginsburg, who remained in the position six months after he hinted at quitting. He’ll be back in a “key position” in the administration after spending time with his family, Newsom said.

Rhorer, who starts Aug. 15, spent eight years directing The City’s Human Services Agency, earning $235,172 annually. He oversaw the transition from cash welfare payments to Care Not Cash, a program that Newsom called his No. 1 passion. As the mayor’s chief of staff, he will make $175,930, a pay cut of $59,242.

Rhorer, 39, said he won’t be making any major changes, although he did hint that he would move the administration to the “next level” on homeless policy.

As Newsom’s third chief of staff in five years, Rhorer didn’t say whether he will outlast his predecessors.

“I didn’t sign a contract,” Rhorer said. “I’m going to be at the job as long as I can and be effective at it.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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