Sid Espinosa, a soft-spoken high-tech executive whose career included stints at the U.S. Justice Department and Hewlett-Packard, became the fourth youngest mayor in Palo Alto's history Tuesday night.
Espinosa, 38, was unanimously elected by his colleagues on the City Council to the largely ceremonial role in front of an enthusiastic City Hall audience. Minutes later, the council unanimously elected its youngest member, 32-year-old Yiaway Yeh, as the city's vice mayor.
Espinosa's election was largely a foregone conclusion given that he served as vice mayor in 2010. But he appeared humbled by the words of praise his colleagues lavished on him in nominating him.
"I think Sid would be one of the more distinguished people we've ever had on the job," said Councilman Larry Klein, a former mayor, who nominated Espinosa.
Klein highlighted Espinosa's long list of achievements, including his service as a trustee at his alma mater, Wesleyan University, his graduation from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, his time as a personal aide to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, his job as a director of philanthropy at Hewlett-Packard and his current role as director of citizenship at Microsoft.
Klein also praised Espinosa's service on the council, to which he was elected in 2007. This included his service last year on the Finance Committee, which had to grapple with two multi-million dollar budget deficits.
"He's always confounded people. He takes a very independent look at issues and speaks very eloquently on what his position is and why we should join him," Klein said.
After hearing Klein recite a catalogue of Espinosa's qualifications, Councilman Greg Scharff added another.
"He's truly a nice guy," said Scharff, who served with Espinosa on the council's Finance Committee. "He's the kind of guy you want to sit here with."
Espinosa, who took over the mayor's position from Pat Burt, thanked his colleagues for their support and highlighted the challenges and the opportunities facing the city in the year ahead. The council also passed a resolution of appreciation for Burt, with several members thanking him for his leadership throughout 2010.
Espinosa said that he has "very, very large shoes to fill."
"I will work as hard as I can to be a good mayor and I look forward to engagement with the broader community," Espinosa said.