Mayor London Breed has appointed Matt Dorsey, a longtime civil servant who was most recently head of communications at the San Francisco Police Department, to replace Sacramento-bound Matt Haney as supervisor of District 6.
Dorsey has worked at the police department since 2020 and, among other roles, led strategic communications for former City Attorney Dennis Herrera for 14 years and served as an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic Party. Dorsey is set to be sworn in at 12:15 p.m. on Monday at Delancey Street, a nonprofit focusing on addiction recovery and job training for those suffering from substance abuse or exiting jail.
Dorsey said he sought the appointment because of his personal experience with addiction recovery, describing himself as an addict and an alcoholic in recovery who had a short relapse during Covid.
“In the last two years in the police department, the number one issue I had worked on is San Francisco’s drug overdose crisis,” Dorsey said in an interview. "It's hard as a person in recovery to feel a kind of helplessness, as a gay man who is HIV+... I did live through an era that was terrifying, with gay men dying.”
Dorsey called the city’s seemingly ineffective response to the fentanyl epidemic—more than 600 people died of fatal overdoses in San Francisco last year—a failure of politics and “the moral equivalent of the AIDS crisis.”
“Much like a generation ago, the stigma of the dying is masking the horror of the dying,” he said. “I think it would be important and influential to have a voice from the drug and addiction recovery community on the board.”
The newly redistricted District 6 extends from the area around Chase Center through South of Market and towards the mid-Market area, with the Tenderloin neighborhood moved to neighboring District 5. Political observers believe that the newly redrawn map may favor more moderate voters, with traditional progressive power centers in the affordable housing and activist arenas split between the two districts.
Mayor London Breed had reportedly been considering Honey Mahogany, an activist, performer and aide to Sacramento-bound Haney, along with a handful of other candidates.
“Matt Dorsey knows how the City works, and as a member of the recovery community, he can bring new energy and commitment to the crisis of addiction that is fueling our overdose crisis and impacting neighborhoods throughout this city,” said Breed in a statement. “San Francisco is facing a number of interwoven challenges around issues like housing, homelessness, mental illness, and public safety, and we need leaders like Matt who have the vision and experience to make the hard decisions.”
A renter in the mid-Market area, Dorsey described himself as representative of his district and an advocate for “authentically progressive urbanism,” highlighting a need for housing at all levels in all corners of the city, along with transportation and public safety and issues core to the district.
In the wake of the mayor’s Tenderloin emergency declaration, a stepped-up police presence in that neighborhood may have pushed out alleged drug dealers and ensuing public safety issues to parts of SoMa, according to residents and police data.
“That we allow open-air drug scenes is enabling and in many cases killing addicts,” Dorsey said. “I think San Francisco is at a critical juncture, and I think on the issues that deeply matter personally to me I can make a difference.”
Annie Gaus can be reached at [email protected]