London Breed

london breed student stories uc davis
Raised in San Francisco, a Political Science graduate in 1997, London Breed would go on to become San Francisco's first African American female mayor. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Graduated 1997
Mayor of San Francisco
B.A. in Political Science

London Breed (B.A., political science, ’97) made history in 2018 as the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco. She’s just the second woman to win the top spot. (The first was Dianne Feinstein.) 

After earning a masters degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco, Breed eventually went on to become the executive director of the African American Art Culture Complex and to serve on the Redevelopment Agency Commission. She was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 2012. In 2015, she was elected the board’s president. As such, she was first in the line of succession when Mayor Ed Lee died in December 2017. She had served as acting mayor for a little more than a month when she was replaced by the Board of Supervisors over fears that her incumbency would give her an advantage in the election. 

Nevertheless she persisted. 

London Breed was sworn in as San Francisco’s mayor on July 11, 2018. She has launched ambitious projects aimed at some of the city’s most intractable problems: Homelessness, drug addiction, home affordability and youth poverty. As for being the city’s first female African-American mayor, she has cautioned, “It’s not just about being the first, it’s also remembering that I can’t be the last.” 

Raised by her grandmother in public housing in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood, Breed says great teachers and smart programs gave her opportunities to flourish despite the obstacles. In high school, she earned a chemistry scholarship and a paid internship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. But after enrolling at UC Davis, she realized chemistry just wasn’t for her. She switched to political science with an emphasis in public service. “I grew up in poverty where there was a lot of violence,” said Breed. “I wanted to do something that could positively impact my community.”  

Of her student experience at UC Davis, London remembers professors whose questions were as thought-provoking as their answers. “My education at UC Davis helped me think things through in terms of how policies are made,” said Breed. “I was forced to think about my decisions and how they impact people’s lives.”

For someone coming from the frenetic pace of San Francisco, life at Davis did take some adjustment at first. She jokingly recalls getting off the Greyhound bus, looking around and thinking “Where are the people?” She eventually formed a close circle of friends that collaborated on everything from late night studies to baking Rice Krispie Treats. Those college friends are still close today. “That’s what ultimately made me feel good about being an Aggie.”

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