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    A Quiet Storm

    By Brett Andrews–

    Have you ever been in a room full of people—possibly a business meeting, workshop or social gathering—and looked around, wondering about everyone’s life story? What do they do for work? Are they married or single? What brings them joy? What secret talents are hidden away from us all that, if given the right situation, would be revealed and met with utter surprise? 

    Along the spectrum of self-expression, I admittedly would have to rate myself more on the outgoing, expressive side. (Many would see this as an understatement.) As opposites often attract, I have always been fascinated by people who are the “quiet storms.” I find myself drawn into an alluring and abiding aura of mystery that seems to surround them.  Maybe that is why I was always captivated by Mayor Edwin Lee.

    In my role at PRC, I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with three mayors over the past 15 years. Each administration, of course, is uniquely defined by the city’s chief executive. After the big political personalities of Mayor Brown and Mayor Newson, I and many others were curious to see what a relatively obscure and unassuming man like Mayor Lee could do for the city. It did not take long for us to find out.

    As a former public interest attorney who worked for a nonprofit that promoted, advanced, and represented the legal and civil rights of API communities, Mayor Lee clearly cherished—and defended from the outset—the deeply held values of San Francisco.

    Mayor Lee understood the benefit of bringing coalitions together around shared causes. Over the years, many of us worked closely with him on maintaining and preserving the safety net of social services, despite the threat of federal cuts. We also worked with him as he led the way in raising the minimum wage to help elevate the quality of life for all San Franciscans, and also as he established a Housing Fund, designed to amass critical resources to support affordable and middle-class housing. These are just a few of the bold initiatives and community-focused efforts that were led by a man whom one might otherwise have passed in the street and given only a quick glance because of his unassuming nature.

     

    I am reminded of a critical meeting Mayor Lee convened earlier this year that I was honored to attend. After the 2016 Presidential election, it became very apparent that we were going to face some of the greatest challenges of our time, and San Francisco was one of the target cities of the new administration. Recognizing the gravity and urgency of the situation, Mayor Lee gathered supervisors, city department heads, community leaders, and healthcare professionals to help identify common goals and opportunities for partnership, in an effort to mitigate and forestall the devastating impacts the proposed changes to DACA would have on the community. Mayor Lee’s first words were, “I’ve gathered you all here because you represent this city’s greatest and most powerful line of defense for our most vulnerable.”

    As a happy warrior, I was inspired, all charged up and ready to go. I again found myself looking around the room, wondering about everyone’s life story. Not to my surprise, in a room full of very impressive individuals, there sat a quiet storm, reserved and humble, occupying the Mayor’s seat. 

    I dedicate this article to my friend, the Honorable Edwin Lee, and to all of the quiet storms who, without fanfare or bluster, are catalysts for change, helping to lift up and move forward the lives of San Franciscans and others around the world.

    Brett Andrews is the Chief Executive Director of PRC (http://positiveresource.org/Default.aspx), which is the only place for people living with HIV/AIDS or mental health disabilities to get comprehensive benefits counseling and employment services in San Francisco. Andrews is a member of the San Francisco HIV/AIDS Provider Network, the San Francisco Human Services Network and the Mayor’s CBO Taskforce. He additionally serves on the Board of the National Working Positive Coalition.