Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting’s election to the California Assembly has set into motion a possible series of personnel changes that could result in the appointment of a new San Francisco supervisor and affect who becomes the next board president.
Ting bested Michael Breyer on Tuesday to capture the Assembly seat representing western San Francisco and parts of northern San Mateo County. After Ting is sworn in Dec. 3, it will be up to Mayor Ed Lee to appoint his replacement.
Widespread City Hall speculation names moderate Supervisor Carmen Chu, the Budget and Finance Committee chairwoman, as the presumed front-runner for the post. Not only would Chu’s financial skills make her a credible choice, her selection would allow Lee to select her board replacement.
But if Lee named Chu assessor, legal precedent would force him to choose between naming someone who could serve for two full supervisorial terms or someone who could help name the next Board of Supervisors president.
The alternative would be to leave the Assessor-Recorder’s Office without leadership for one to two months.
On Wednesday, Lee suggested that such calculations are premature. He said he hadn’t talked with any candidates for assessor-recorder, while nonetheless talking up Chu in response to a question.
“Quite candidly, I have not even thought about that,” he said of selecting the supervisor. “But I do know Supervisor Chu. She’s a fiscal professional. And so clearly I would like to think of her as being someone I would want to consider.”
Lee said he is lining up names, but first wants to meet with Ting to find out “who he has in the office and what is being run there.” The outgoing assessor-recorder said he would be happy to meet with the mayor and share any advice Lee seeks.
Chu could not be reached for comment Thursday, but has said previously that she wouldn’t rule out the post.
If Chu were selected, the timing of Lee’s appointment to replace her would affect how long that person could serve in office.
According to the City Charter, if an appointed supervisor completes more than two years of an existing term, that person could only seek one more four-year term. So naming Chu’s replacement Jan. 8 or earlier would limit Chu’s replacement to a maximum of six years in office. An appointment on or after Jan. 9 would let Chu’s replacement possibly serve for almost 10 years.
And that’s where the mayor might have to make a choice. Jan. 8 — the second Tuesday in January — happens to be the date on which the Board of Supervisors must select its new president to a two-year term.
“That weighs into consideration about the process,” Lee said about the length of any appointee’s term. “But I think right now, my obligation would be to find the best person I believe to be the assessor-recorder, because that in and of itself is a tremendous responsibility.”
Current board President David Chiu, as well as supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, could all be candidates for board president. But helping to secure a majority of a 10-supervisor board could be much more difficult for the moderate mayor than it would be with all 11 members present, political consultant Alex Clemens noted Wednesday during a talk at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.
“Would you handicap somebody you are putting into a position of power and say you’re going to lose out on four more years?” Clemens asked. “You probably wouldn’t.”
Lee insisted that he won’t get involved in selecting the new board president.
“We have 11 intelligent members of the Board of Supervisors, and whoever they decide wants to be their president, I’m going to commit to working with that president, him or her, as I’ve done with President Chiu.”