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Politics & Policy

San Francisco mayor taps new budget chief with massive deficit looming

A person in a gray suit shakes hands with the Mayor of San Francisco.
Newly appointed San Francisco City Controller Greg Wagner shakes hands with Mayor London Breed at City Hall on Wednesday. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Wednesday that she's appointed a new top budget official following the resignation of longtime City Controller Ben Rosenfield last year.

Breed selected Greg Wagner, currently a top executive at the Department of Public Health, to lead the influential Controller's Office. In addition to helping prepare the city's budget and issuing financial forecasts, the controller is responsible for leading audits and investigations into public integrity and fiscal health.

"We have some very challenging circumstances ahead [and] Greg understands what that means,” said Breed at a City Hall press conference Wednesday. She pointed to his leadership experience during the pandemic and called Wagner "the perfect candidate."

A man in a grey suit speaks behind a podium in front of an American and Californian flag at San Francisco City Hall.
Greg Wagner, a Department of Public Health executive, has been tapped to lead San Francisco's influential Controller's Office. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Wagner has worked at the Department of Public Health for 12 years, according to a LinkedIn profile, serving as the chief operating officer since 2020 and previously as the chief financial officer. Before working at the health department, he was budget director for former Mayors Ed Lee and Gavin Newsom, helping to write city budgets during the Great Recession.

"I really believe in San Francisco, and the future of the city, and our ability to attack financial challenges," Wagner said Wednesday.

Breed noted that, in addition to steering the city through what could be a turbulent few years, Wagner will be focused on tax reform. The Mayor's Office has signaled a desire to streamline the city's complicated tax codes in a time when many office workers are remaining home, hampering tax revenue. The effort may result in a November 2024 ballot measure.

With Rosenfield expected to depart next month, Wagner is inheriting what could be a difficult few years for the city's finances. Last month, the budget office projected that the city's deficit could balloon to $800 million over the next two fiscal years, reflecting a growing gap between revenues and expenditures.

Rosenfield, whose career with the city spanned 26 years and five mayoral administrations, earned widespread respect at City Hall during his time as controller, which began in 2008.

In a November interview, Rosenfield pointed to huge revenue losses tied to remote work as a major challenge for the city's finances. But he said the city is better prepared to weather economic storms than it was during prior recessions.

If confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, Wagner will serve a 10-year term as controller.

Board President Aaron Peskin thanked Breed for her “thoughtful decision” and said he had "every confidence" that Wagner's nomination will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Josh Ram contributed to this report.
Annie Gaus can be reached at