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Mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee, were among 350 guests at the White House for Tuesday’s state dinner honoring visiting French President Francois Hollande.

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Mayor Johnson at White House state dinner with French president

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 - 10:23 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 - 11:34 pm

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson spends most Tuesday nights at City Council meetings sitting between the city clerk and city manager.

This week, Johnson had dinner at the White House with the president of France, the Obamas and actor Bradley Cooper.

Johnson was one of 350 guests at a White House state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The guest of honor was French President Francois Hollande, who arrived in Washington on Monday.

The mayor casually announced his dinner plans with a message on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, writing he was “Proud to be going to the @WhiteHouse for tonight’s State Dinner with (Hollande). Excited to represent Sac!”

Johnson followed that up with another tweet a few minutes later: “On my way to my first State Dinner! How do you say Farm-to-Fork in French?”

Johnson said he rode a trolley from the White House to the tent on the South Lawn, where the dinner was served. He then provided commentary on the meal.

“Had caviar and potato velouté for first course ... if you’re from Oak Park like me that’s potato soup!” he wrote on Twitter.

“Second course was a salad that looked like a terrarium it was so beautiful ... but I’m hungry so I forgot to take a pic before I ate it,” he added.

Johnson said he sat with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.

Despite the cross-country engagement – and an ice storm forecast for parts of the East Coast – the mayor’s office expressed confidence that Johnson would return to Sacramento in time to deliver tonight’s State of the City address at Memorial Auditorium.

It was unclear Tuesday how Johnson scored an invite to the gala. But the mayor’s national profile has increased in recent months as he was elevated to the vice president’s position in the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The guest list at the White House, reported by The Washington Post, included Cooper, TV personality Stephen Colbert, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Collins, the NBA player who last year became the first professional athlete to publicly say he is gay. R&B star Mary J. Blige was scheduled to perform.

California was well-represented at the dinner. In addition to Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Karen Bass were invited to the dinner. La Jolla resident Irwin Jacobs – the founder of tech giant Qualcomm, whose sons are part owners of the Sacramento Kings – was scheduled to be there, too.

The menu also featured a Golden State influence. Diners were served bottles of a 2011 “La Proportion Doree” from the Morlet Family Vineyards in St. Helena, according to media outlets given a sneak preview of the menu. Potatoes from California were also served.

The invitation to the state dinner apparently was not relayed to other public officials from the Sacramento region.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is in Washington for meetings with White House officials and members of Congress. But he didn’t make the state dinner guest list.

Neither did the mayor of West Sacramento, whose city has a French Avenue.

“No White House state dinner w/president of France for me tonight,” joked West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. “Once you take the hamburger out of the freezer, your fate is predestined.”

Apparently Cabaldon didn’t want to save the burger for a steak tartare.


Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

Read more articles by Ryan Lillis



About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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