SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Leaders in San Francisco, the Bay Area and across the country expressed shock after San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly of an apparent heart attack early Tuesday morning.
Lee, the city’s first Asian-American mayor, passed away at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital at 1:11 a.m., with friends, family and colleagues at his side. Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who was a close friend of Lee, told KPIX 5 that the mayor suffered a heart attack while grocery shopping late Monday night.
“I don’t know San Francisco without Ed Lee,” Brown said. Lee served as head of purchasing during Brown’s tenure as mayor.
“At his swearing-in ceremony, I reminded everyone that he had literally been the best qualified person ever to hold the job. Unlike the all rest of us who got elected. We got elected by our skills to convince people and to sell people on us as an idea. Ed Lee earned that title by demonstration of being an efficient person who could manage a huge enterprise like San Francisco,” Brown recalled.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco called it a “very sad day” for the city and for all those who knew Lee.
“My thoughts turn to all of Ed’s family, especially Anita, Brianna and Tania. I know what this is like and wish I could give Anita a hug and express my sorrow,” said Feinstein, who became mayor following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone in 1978.
“Ed was an excellent mayor of a great but sometimes challenging city. His equanimity and quiet management style was effective and allowed him to solve problems as they occurred,” the senator continued. “My heart and thoughts are with Ed’s family and friends and the city I love.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor who appointed Lee as his replacement in 2011, said “San Francisco has lost a selfless leader, a dedicated servant to the public, and a tireless bearer of equality’s torch.”
“His intellect, unshakable integrity, boundless optimism and contagious love for San Francisco elevated the City to greater heights. He steered San Francisco with an unshakable hand, an indomitable spirit, and a great sense of humor,” Newsom added.
Sen. Kamala Harris, who served as San Francisco District Attorney, tweeted her condolences and noted Lee’s civil rights record.
“He was a fierce advocate for civil rights and worked tirelessly for workers’ rights and his leadership will be missed,” Harris said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said in a statement, “All who knew Mayor Lee understood him as a true gentleman of great warmth, positivity and kindness. His passing is not only a tragic official loss for our city but also a profound personal loss for all who were fortunate enough to call him friend.”
“Mayor Lee took deep pride in serving as the first Asian-American Mayor of San Francisco. His greatest source of joy was his beloved family, and our city owes a debt of gratitude to his wife Anita and his daughters Brianna and Tania for sharing this exceptional, lovely person with us,” Pelosi went on to say.
Rep. Jackie Speier, whose congressional district covers part of San Francisco, said Lee’s example was one to follow.
Gov. Jerry Brown remembered Lee as a “true champion for working people and epitomized the California spirit.”
San Francisco supervisors past and present also expressed condolences on social media early Tuesday morning.
City officials, including District Attorney George Gascon and Police Chief Bill Scott expressed condolences.
Mayors in the Bay Area and across the country also expressed their shock at Lee’s sudden passing.
Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland said in a statement, “Mayor Ed Lee served his community with passion and humility, broke historic barriers, led with a compassionate heart, and was a valued friend and colleague. He will be missed dearly.”
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Lee “left us too early” and called him a “good and incredibly gracious man.”
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio called him “a good friend and a tireless fighter for the people of San Francisco.”
Lee served a variety of roles in city government, including human rights director, chief administrative officer and public works director, before being appointed mayor in 2011 to replace Newsom, who left his post to become Lieutenant Governor. Later that year, Lee went on to win a full term as mayor and won re-election in 2015.
According to the city charter, Board of Supervisors president London Breed has become acting mayor of San Francisco.