By Lee Hubbard
and Carla Thomas
When Naomi Kelly stepped to the podium in the chamber of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon, history was being made.
Kelly, the interim city administrator, had just been approved unanimously, 11-0, as the first African American City Administrator of San Francisco.
Kelly was nominated by Mayor Ed Lee for the post. After being confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, she was ushered downstairs where she was sworn in by Mayor Lee.
Lee, himself, was City Administrator before being selected as the interim Mayor in 2011. He knows Kelly well, who worked for him.
“I have worked with Naomi for a number of years,” said Lee. “She is one that has been about everyone else, and she makes sure that the city is running well.”
Kelly was appointed to a five-year term. In her position, she will oversee 20 departments, divisions, offices and programs, with an annual budget of $450 million and over 2,100 employees.
Hundreds of people looked on, as Kelly acknowledged Black History Month and her status as a history maker, the first African American City Administrator in San Francisco.
“I have been entrusted to help get people jobs that are out here struggling,” said Kelly, as her husband Harlan Kelly and their two children looked on. “It is about getting the business of San Francisco done.”
Kelly isn’t new to government service. For the past 10 years, she has served as the Deputy City Administrator under Mayor Lee, City Purchaser and Director of the Office of Contract Administration under Mayor Gavin Newsom; Executive Director of the Taxicab Commission and Special Assistant in the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services under Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr.
“We have the first Asian American Mayor of San Francisco appointing the first African American City administrator,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen of District 10. “We are moving beyond racial barriers in this city.”
“This is a historical moment in San Francisco,” said Shuman Walton, director of Young Community Developers, a non-profit employment agency in Bay View Hunters Point. “She is extremely qualified for the position, and this appointment demonstrates what the Ed Lee administration will look like in San Francisco.”
“Naomi has paid her dues,” said London Breed, head of the African American Art & Culture Complex. “She is a great person, intelligent and she will take things to the next level.”
Reverend Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church and a former member of the Board of Supervisors came out to show his support.
“Kelly is an excellent professional person, and we have to applaud her for her accomplishments,” said Pastor Brown. “But we can tie her accomplishments with the fate of Black folk in this town. We have unfinished business that needs to be done.”
Kelly is a native of San Mateo who attended college at New York University. After leaving New York, she came back to the Bay Area to study law at University of San Francisco. From there she worked in the Brown administration.