In appointing 32 new City commissioners, Mayor Breed strives for representation of San Francisco’s diversity

by Evan Ward

Among the commissioners appointed April 19 are Breanna Zwart to the Commission on the Status of Women and Belle Taylor-McGhee and Tyra Fennell to the Film Commission. Mayor Breed stands between Belle Taylor-McGhee and Tyra Fennell. Also appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women was Meena Harris, who was unable to attend the ceremony.

San Francisco – Mayor London N. Breed held a ceremonial swearing-in on April 19 for 32 commissioners she has appointed or re-appointed to various City commissions and boards. These commissioners represent a wide variety of lived experiences and expertise, and continue Mayor Breed’s commitment to equitable representation and diversity in City government.

“Commissioners and board members are tasked with not only addressing some of the most important issues facing our City, but also identifying challenges we will face in the future,” said Mayor Breed. “In order to effectively do this, we need to make sure that all San Franciscans are represented, which is why we have appointed qualified, committed individuals who represent the diversity of San Francisco.”

Four of these 32 commissioners are African American.

Belle Taylor-McGhee, appointed to the Film Commission, is vice president for strategic communications for JLM Management Group, a multi-disciplinary consulting firm specializing in strategic communications, media and public relations, community outreach and public engagement. She is also a national leader in women’s reproductive health, a public speaker, and freelance journalist. As a journalist, Ms. Taylor-McGhee has covered women’s reproductive health extensively at home and abroad. In 2010, Ms. Taylor-McGhee reported from Tanzania and Uganda, Africa, on the high rate of maternal mortality and how women’s health advocates, communities and governments were addressing the problem.

In a three-part series published in the 2010 spring, summer and fall issues of Ms. Magazine, Ms. Taylor-McGhee reported on the challenge in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goal 5: to reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio. As a follow-up to the story, Ms. Taylor-McGhee reported on the high rates of Black maternal mortality in the U.S., published on Dec. 14, 2012, in Women’s eNews.

Her reporting earned her a 2013 California Endowment Health Reporting Fellowship with the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Ms. Taylor-McGhee has extensive expertise in media and public policy – having served as communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America in Washington, D.C., and executive director for CARAL Pro-Choice America in San Francisco.

Additionally, Ms. Taylor-McGhee was appointed in 2002 by former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. to head the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. She is a former television news investigative reporter with more than a dozen years of broadcast journalism experience in Seattle, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Alabama markets.

In March 2012, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed Ms. Taylor-McGhee to serve a four-year term on the Health Commission for the City and County of San Francisco (2012-2016), which serves as the governing and policy-making body for the Department of Public Health, the City and County hospitals and emergency medical services. In March 2016, Mayor Lee appointed Ms. Taylor-McGhee to serve a four-year term on the San Francisco Film Commission, which works to promote, develop and recognize film activities in San Francisco. Ms. Taylor-McGhee also serves on a national steering committee working to bring over-the-counter access to oral contraception in the U.S.

Ms. Taylor-McGhee holds a B.A. degree in broadcasting and journalism from the University of Alabama, and she completed the 2004 “Women and Power: Leadership in a New World” Executive Education Program at Harvard Kennedy School.

Breanna Zwart, appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women, has been a lifelong advocate for women and girls through mentoring, education, and community and economic development. She currently works to promote internet access in emerging markets at Google. Ms. Zwart’s portfolio includes partnership development, policy implementation, communications, and strategy execution.

Prior to joining Google, Ms. Zwart was a presidential appointee at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she led initiatives promoting gender equality in international economic development. Before her time in Washington D.C., Ms. Zwart was the City of San Diego’s Budget and Finance Committee consultant and a policy advisor to the City Council president.

Ms. Zwart has served on the board of the Elementary Institute of Science, the San Diego New Leaders Council, is a past member of Hermanitas, HerStory, and former co-director of Strong Women, Strong Girls.

Ms. Zwart holds a Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management, and a Bachelors of Arts and Humanities in International Relations and Drama with a Minor in Hispanic Studies, both from Carnegie Mellon University.

Tyra Fennell, also appointed to the Film Commission, is the founding director of Imprint.City, an organization seeking to activate industrial, underutilized spaces with art projects, encouraging community and economic development. Imprint.City is working to build the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood as the emerging arts district of San Francisco by adding to the already rich arts tapestry of the neighborhood.

Since its formation, Imprint.City has launched several high profile arts projects to leverage the talent in the community, as well as celebrity, such as Van Jones, and strategic partnerships including the American Conservatory Theater, PG&E, Five Point and Airbnb. The Bayview Harvest, for example, dovetailed access to fresh produce for residents with arts engagement.

Imprint.City created Bayview SPARC in partnership with Shipyard artists the Flaming Lotus Girls. SPARC introduced the neighborhood to Burning Man and its youth to science by having them participate with engineers to build the featured Tesla Coils showcased during the event. In 2016, Imprint.City also launched the first annual Bayview LIVE Music and Arts Festival located on Egbert Street between Third and Jennings Street.

In addition to her work with Imprint.City, Tyra also serves on the board of Open Door Legal, formerly Bayview Community Legal, and is the past chair of the Bayview YMCA. She is a resident of Bayview.

Meena Harris, appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women, is head of strategy and leadership at Uber, where she oversees transformation initiatives across business units to positively impact brand, customer loyalty and employee engagement.

Previously Meena managed policy at communication platform Slack, where she provided strategic advice on tech policy issues pertaining to cloud-based enterprise software. Before that, she was a data privacy and cybersecurity attorney at a major global law firm, advising leading tech and media companies.

Prior to law school, Meena worked in user operations at Facebook. She also was active on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, for which she primarily focused on youth-vote organizing and grassroots fundraising. In 2008, Meena co-founded Gen44, Obama for America’s millennial fundraising program. Meena launched the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, a digital media initiative and collective of diverse women from around the country who support women’s causes through promotion of the Maya Angelou-inspired “Phenomenal Woman” t-shirt.

To date, Mayor Breed has appointed or re-appointed 75 commissioners to help address the issues facing San Francisco. Over 60 percent of her appointees are women, and a majority are people of color. Four of the commissioners sworn in April 19 are from the LGBT community.

This is what it looks like to have equal representation in our government.

A full list of City commissions and their responsibilities can be found at https://sf311.org/services/centralized-commission-database.

Evan Ward, a journalist in the Mayor’s Office of Communications, can be reached at evan.ward@sfgov.org.