Board of Supervisor president says the MPA prepared him for public office

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Hanging in San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton’s (MPA, ’10) office is a photograph of his mentor Philmore Graham, founder of the Omega Boys Club in Vallejo — a club that he says saved his life. Its mission was to create a college pipeline for Black male youth. Walton got into trouble at school and spent time in juvenile hall, but the club set him on a different path — one that began with a four-year degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and later a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from SF State. Now, as the county and city’s first Black man elected president of the Board of Supervisors, through public policy, he’s carving out similar pathways for the Black community.

In high school, Walton says he aspired to lead reform efforts in his community. He knew he’d have a role in government, but he couldn’t see the exact path he’d take to get there. It turns out that path was shaped like a circle. Walton grew up in public housing in Potrero Hill and Bayview. Years later, he worked in nonprofits and education serving those same communities. In 2018, he was elected supervisor of District 10, which encompasses those same neighborhoods. He credits SF State with preparing him for that leap to government. There’s not a day that goes by in his current role that he doesn’t use what he learned at the University, he says.

“The MPA program taught me how government works, how resources flow from all levels of government — federal, state to local,” he added. “The program is second to none in preparing you for a life in government.”

He was drawn to SF State for its historic commitment to social justice, equity and inclusion, something his instructors lived and breathed, he says. “We live in a diverse world. In public service, it’s important to understand and build relationships with the communities and the cultures around you. All of my professors understood that and taught from that perspective,” he said. “It’s a testament to the leadership at SF State that professors know and understand that different cultures are important, that diversity is important and to bring all that to a leadership role is important.”

Learn more about this extraordinary alumnus on the SF State News website