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Dennis Herrera.

The Interview: The Joy of Generosity

Janet Reilly

For the last 20 years, Dennis Herrera has served as San Francisco’s elected city attorney, leading one of the most effective and groundbreaking public law offices in the nation. Herrera’s legal advocacy on issues such as same-sex marriage, environmental justice and consumer protection has not only benefited San Franciscans, but has also had consequential impacts beyond the City’s borders. Recently, Mayor London Breed tapped Herrera to run the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — a billiondollar enterprise providing millions of Bay Area residents with water and power. It’s a position that will demand his full talent and attention the moment he steps into the job. On the first day City Hall reopened to the public, I sat down with the city attorney in his wood-paneled office, where he talked nostalgically about the last two decades, the team he built here, the big job that lies ahead — and the election that got away. Meet Dennis Herrera.

You’ve accomplished so much in 20 years as city attorney. But you are probably best known for your legal advocacy for same-sex marriage. When you look back on that, how important was San Francisco’s role in changing the political landscape on that issue?

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City leaders and advocates (right) celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Under Herrera (speaking to the press below in 2012), the City Attorney’s Office helped topple the proposition and restore marriage equality.

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