Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

Next Stop, Sacramento? Gavin Newsom

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom may be known nationally as the patron saint of gay marriage, but back home, Newsom has built his career on things like buying fleets of hybrid vehicles and installing windmills near the Golden Gate Bridge. He has barred the city from buying bottled water, joined the Kyoto Protocol—an international global-warming treaty spurned by President George W. Bush—and brought down unemployment while boosting tourism and new businesses. When the rising cost of living kept pushing out blue collar workers, Newsom spent $500 million on public housing. After two tax increases were rejected at the polls, he balanced the city's budget by folding six departments into one and eliminating 1,500 city jobs. Not everything—such as the windmills, a new cruise-ship terminal and citywide wi-fi—has worked. "In the private sector, leaders are willing to take risks and find innovative solutions," Newsom, 40, says. "In the public sector, politicians are risk-averse. They're afraid of trying something new because they might see a bad headline the next day. That's a problem." Twice married, including earlier this year to an actress and software heiress, Newsom announced last month that he's forming an exploratory committee to run for governor of California.

— Jay Newton-Small