In an odd game of musical chairs, Mayor Frank Jordan on Monday picked one of his political rivals, county Assessor Richard Hongisto, to become the city's new police chief.
Even in San Francisco, where off-beat politics are the norm, the mayor's selection of Hongisto came as a shock. Jordan, a former police chief, and Hongisto, a liberal and the city's former sheriff, differ greatly in style and political point of view.
The often-controversial Hongisto, who served 10 years as a San Francisco police officer, was elected sheriff in 1971 when he ran for office with a peace sign on his campaign literature. As sheriff, he gained attention by recruiting gay deputies.
He briefly left San Francisco to become the police chief of Cleveland and to run the New York state prison system. After his return, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for 11 years and was elected assessor in 1990.
Just last fall, the moderate, low-key Jordan defeated Hongisto in the mayoral primary election before winning the general election.
In announcing Hongisto's appointment, the mayor praised his law enforcement background and managerial abilities.
Jordan's Administration has been off to a rocky start since he took office in January, in part because of his efforts to replace some longtime city officials with friends and allies. Last week, he fired press secretary Stephen Bloom after 10 weeks on the job.
Before naming Hongisto as police chief, the mayor fired Chief Willis Casey, who had served under Jordan when both were in the Police Department. In fact, Jordan had promoted Casey to be his assistant chief in 1990. When Jordan quit later that year, Casey was named police chief by then-Mayor Art Agnos.