A fiery advocate in his more youthful days, moderated in his elder years, married to a man who works in the real estate industry and together raising a daughter who attends a public school.
Jeff Sheehy, 59, is becoming more well-known after Mayor Ed Lee announced him as his appointment Friday morning to serve in the District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors. A longtime civil rights advocate, Sheehy will be the first supervisor openly living with HIV in San Francisco history.
The mayor made his pick from a narrowing list of potential names Thursday. The decision was supported by state Sen. Scott Wiener, whose vacated seat on the board Sheehy is filling.
In a 12-minute address Friday at the Noe Valley Town Square, Sheehy talked about combating auto-break-ins in the neighborhood and protecting health services.
He called for unity among the moderate and progressive factions to combat the policies of President-elect Donald Trump.
“I will be the LGBT supervisor,” Sheehy said. “These are perilous times. We face an existential threat. Rights that we fought for and won, that women have won, we may have to fight for them all over again. Our gains may be erased by what he does with the courts.”
Sheehy emphasized he was there to serve the district and not use the post as a stepping stone to higher office. “I am not here to serve because I want to go to go Sacramento or I want to go to Washington. I’ve had a career. I’ve made history,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy, for instance, was instrumental in passing a local law for equal employee benefits for domestic partners in 1996.
He also remarked on the historic moment in his becoming the first member of the board living openly with HIV. “Thirty years ago if you told me I could live to 40, I would have said, ‘I don’t think so,’” Sheehy said. “It is astonishing to me that I am going to turn 60 this year and have a husband of almost 18 years and I have an 11-year-old daughter in public school in San Francisco.”
The mayor said Sheehy “not only has the passion and commitment, but represents a diversity that compliments our board, represents an intellect that is very deep, has a passion for neighborhoods, but [is] also a parent.” He added he was “solution-oriented, pragmatic [and] practical.”
Mayoral appointees are often criticized for lacking independence and rubber stamping the mayor’s agenda, but some described Sheehy as a board member who will exhibit both moderate and progressive leanings, and Sheehy himself said he would exercise independence.
Sheehy’s past political contributions include to progressive politicians such as in 2000 to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who returned to the board last year.
Sheehy’s husband, Bill Berry, who has worked for the past five years as a transaction coordinator for Zephyr real estate and before that as a real estate agent, said his husband is “tough as nails.”
“Jeff cannot be bought, he cannot be bent, he cannot be broken,” he said. “He will fight you tooth and nail and if he really believes what he is saying, you lost.”
Former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty supported Sheehy for the appointment. “He is ferocious,” Dufty said. “I fear him at times.”
But it was Sheehy’s recent behavior that prompted Supervisor David Campos, who is termed out of office on Sunday, to blast the mayor’s pick.
Sheehy was a strong supporter of Wiener in the Senate race against Supervisor Jane Kim last year, and was part of some negative attacks against her, including comments in the media that Kim and Campos wanted to cut funding for HIV services during the budget process, which they both say was inaccurate.
When asked about the negative campaigning, Sheehy offered no apologies but looked forward. “I feel like we are going to work together – I hope. We have existential challenges,” Sheehy said. He added that the Senate race was “a spirited race. People care about a lot of deep issues.”
Kim said Friday she was willing to give him a chance. “Campaigns are campaigns,” Kim said. “When you’re on the board you have to learn to work together. I want to give Jeff that opportunity.”
She added that “I think he cares a lot about the issues we are trying to solve.”
Campos, however, called the appointment “surprising” and said the mayor passed up “strong options.” He described Sheehy as “divisive” and willing to lower to tactics of “hitting below the belt” and said that he would be vulnerable to defeat in an election by a progressive challenger.
Alex Randolph, who was sworn in to serve as a City College of San Francisco trustee Wednesday, was also among the final names the mayor was considering for the post. “I respect the mayor’s decision,” Randolph said. “I am excited to keep serving The City on the City College Board and look forward to working with Supervisor Sheehy.”
Sheehy will be sworn in to office Sunday along with three other new supervisors who prevailed in the November election in separate ceremonies. The new board will vote Monday on the board presidency, who is expected to be Supervisor London Breed for a second two-year term.
Supervisor Mark Farrell said, “I’ve enjoyed working with Jeff during our budget process around AIDS/HIV funding, in particular our Getting to Zero efforts, and look forward to collaborating with him on the board.”
District 11 Supervisor-elect Ahsha Safai said, “I’m excited to have someone on the board with his level of experience. I think it’s great to have a fighter.”
Sandra Fewer, who was elected to serve in District 1, said in a text message, “Don’t know him personally but welcome him and I look forward to getting to know him and working with him.”
There is a chance that Sheehy may face election as early as November if a special election is called through a signature gathering campaign by progressive allies, who are considering placing on the ballot revenue measures along with other politically-charged issues like free City College, funding for immigration defense and affordable housing.
For Sheehy, the job already seems to have gotten off to a quick start, even before he has officially begun.
Following the announcement, the mayor, Sheehy and Wiener walked along the Noe Valley sidewalk visiting small businesses. A woman shouted to him that voters want City College saved. “Absolutely, thank you,” Sheehy said.
Another constituent approached him to talk about an Ellis Act eviction occurring in the area. “This Ellis Act is a thing of the devil,” Sheehy said.Politics