(BAR) San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has tapped Theresa Sparks, the longtime executive director of the city's Human Rights Commission, as his senior adviser for transgender initiatives.

In a statement Tuesday, Lee said, "Human rights are transgender rights, and transgender rights are human rights. Theresa Sparks has been a leader in our city on human rights issues."

In her new role, Sparks, "will keep San Francisco on the forefront of the world on transgender policy issues and LGBT rights," Lee said.

A statement from the mayor's office indicated that Lee is the first mayor in the nation to create such a position.

"It's a great opportunity. ... I don't think there's any question this will be the first time this high of a priority will be placed on transgender programs, such as someone who's basically a direct adviser to the mayor of San Francisco," Sparks, 67, said in a brief interview Tuesday.

She'll start in her new position July 1. She said her salary would be about $180,000, the same as it is now.

Sparks was believed to be the city's first transgender department head when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom selected her for the HRC post in 2009.

Prior to her work at that agency, Sparks served on the city's Police Commission, including a stint as the oversight panel's president.

She also was once CEO of the sex toy retailer Good Vibrations.

Sparks said her new job will include reviewing and overseeing city projects related to issues such as trans health care, violence prevention, education, and employment.

Among other things, she said, Lee wants her to "try to understand what they're costing, and more importantly, what they're achieving or not achieving." She'll also be tasked with identifying gaps in service delivery.

Additionally, Sparks' efforts will involve cultural training for police, probation, jail, and other law enforcement agencies.

She said she'd also develop relationships with regional, national, and international agencies; community-based organizations; and private companies outside San Francisco.

Sparks offered praise for the work Lee's already done, noting he was the first mayor in the U.S. to issue a ban on city employee travel to North Carolina after the state enacted its controversial House Bill 2 law this year, which prohibits transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

There was no immediate word from the mayor's office on who will replace Sparks at the Human Rights Commission.


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