SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mayor Ed Lee will be remembered for being the city's first Chinese American Mayor, but he also stepped up to lead a city emerging from a national economic crisis.
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Lee's career in San Francisco city government began long before he was appointed a mayor, and he worked tirelessly to make the city a better place to live by bringing jobs and housing during his tenure as Mayor.
In 1996, Mayor Willie Brown promoted him to director of the city's Purchasing Department, on the condition that he pick up stakes across the Bay in Oakland and move to the city.
"He was literally the cornerstone," Brown said." He did public works for me. He did purchase for me ... for a brief period of time, (he) did human rights -- and he was a stalwart in every aspect of my relationship with the far east."
The move would set in motion a future public servant Lee never expected.
He became public works director, then city administrator. That's the job he was doing in 2011 when the Board of Supervisors appointed him mayor after Gavin Newsom was elected to lieutenant governor.
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"Mayor Lee was a person who came to the office ready to get the job done," recalled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "He's operational; he served as a community organizer with great pride. He served as the chief administrative officer of our city, so he knew the inner workings."
As mayor, Lee never lost touch with his immigrant roots. Just last year, he helped open a hospital that catered to the Chinese speaking community in San Francisco.
Shortly after taking office, he set his sights on San Francisco's gritty Market Street, landing Twitter to anchor what's become known as the "Twitterloin."
He envisioned it as the first piece of the puzzle that would revitalize the long-neglected stretch of Market from 6th Street to Octavia Boulevard. He was criticized for offering the company tax breaks, but as result, the street neighborhood has been revitalized.
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Before his career in San Francisco politics, Lee was a housing rights activist. Raised in public housing himself, he tackled the rebuilding of the city's aging public housing infrastructure and created a department of homelessness to get people off the streets.
A dedicated Giants fan, Lee also saw the civic value in the sports. He took over the city just as the 49ers were making an exit. Lee also lured the Warriors to San Francisco from Oakland and brokered a deal for
"He was admired personally not only by those who knew him officially by how he served our city, nationally by other mayors who recognized his excellence," Pelosi said. "He will be sorely missed."
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