Meet Joe Tuman


A Public Servant. 
Not Just Another Politician. 

Joe Tuman’s life has been about public service. Throughout a career spanning 30 years, through teaching government and law at a public university, with service to numerous Oakland community organizations focused on safety, jobs, government reform, education, and the arts, and from his in-depth, on the ground experience of the ins and outs of local government, Joe Tuman has developed a deep knowledge of how this city functions—and often doesn’t.

But Joe gained that experience from the outside. He’s not part of any City Hall machine. As Mayor, Joe Tuman will have the freedom to shake things up and create real, substantive, fundamental change. 

Early Life

Joe Tuman is the son of immigrants. His parents, Vladimir and Turan Tuman came from Iran. 

Despite his own humble beginnings, Vladimir Tuman earned a scholarship to study engineering, physics and geology in England. After completing his studies, he returned briefly to work in Iran and married Turan, before the young couple decided to move west.

Joe’s parents eventually landed in America, eager to build a new life in a place where one could freely participate in a democracy and voice one’s views without fear of persecution. The family first settled in Dallas, Texas, where Joe was born, in 1958. Subsequently, the Tumans made several moves as Vladimir settled into teaching university classes in Illinois, and later at Stanford, where he earned a PhD in Geophysics.

Ultimately, the family settled in Turlock, California. It was there Joe’s father would found the first Physics Department at CSU Stanislaus, and his mother would serve as a substitute teacher.

Joe’s parents also owned two restaurants in Turlock, where Joe worked from the time he was 12 years old until he was 19. Joe did every job there was, from dishwashing to helping manage the businesses shortly before he left for college.

Joe’s parents instilled in Joe and his brothers the importance of community and public service. In 1968, Joe watched his father—by then a well regarded local Democrat—ride with Bobby Kennedy on a campaign train shortly before Kennedy’s assassination. Ten year-old Joe was mesmerized by a speech Kennedy gave from the back of the train car, and it inspired him to be more involved in his community.

Ultimately Joe decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher.


Joe put himself through college and law school, working as a bus boy and dishwasher, a youth football coach, and a security guard. He also sold calculators and typewriters, and served as a fruit inspector for the Department of Agriculture.

Joe’s hard work and commitment to his education paid off. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he was a successful college debater, winning many tournaments and being nationally ranked as a public speaker. Joe graduated from Cal with Highest Honors and Phi Beta Kappa, with a B.A. in political science. He later earned a Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall School of Law.

Professional Life

Joe went on to teach at UC Berkeley, in the Executive MBA program in management communications at St. Mary’s College, and later at Paris II, the top law school in France.

He also spent time as a business consultant working with companies of all sizes to help them develop better business practices and negotiating skills.

For the last 27 years, Joe has taught constitutional law, government, politics, and communications at SF State University. He currently chairs the University’s Department of Communications, managing a staff of nearly 70. He received the Jacobus tenBroek Society award for teaching excellence in 2009.

Joe has written or edited 16 books covering subjects including government, politics, and constitutional law. His work has been featured in the New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, and he has served as an expert commentator on government and politics on network and cable television, including ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN. He was nominated for an Emmy for his 2008 Election Night coverage.

Service to Oakland

Joe Tuman has long been committed to serving Oakland. As a member of the Board of Directors for Make Oakland Better Now, Joe has pushed to make City Hall more transparent and fiscally responsible, and he has worked to make the city intensify its focus on public safety. As a member of the Board of Directors of Running for a Better Oakland, Joe has worked to promote athleticism and good health for underprivileged children in Oakland.

Joe also served on the committee known as the Adults in the Room, designed to audit Measure Y, Oakland’s public safety measure, which was passed in 2004. In that role, Joe helped assess whether funding was spent as promised to the voters. Joe also worked with a committee organized by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce to assess Oakland’s efforts to reduce violent crime and address police understaffing. On this committee, Joe partnered with the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County District Attorney, our US Attorney, various public safety advisors, and CeaseFire program staff. 

Personal Life

Joe and his wife Kirsten Weisser have been married for 30 years. Kirsten was born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley. She is an Executive Vice President with a local, family owned community bank. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she met Joe, and has been named one of the "Bay Area's 100 Most Influential Women" four times by the San Francisco Business Times.

Joe is also an accomplished Ironman triathlete, having completed 13 Ironmans (a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and then a 26.2 mile marathon) in California, Hawaii, Florida, Canada, and France, as well as 35 Half Ironmans, and 40 marathons.

Joe and Kirsten have two children, Helena (26) and Nate (23), who were both born and raised in Oakland. 

Joe Tuman and his family have lived in the same Oakland neighborhood for nearly 30 years.