Sid Espinosa, National, Local and Philanthropic

After holding several jobs in national politics, Sid Espinosa came home to California where he was elected the first Hispanic mayor of Palo Alto. And he prefers the local scene.


You’d think that having experienced politics on a national level, Sid Espinosa would prefer to stay in Washington, D.C., and become part of the political machine. Instead, the Hispanic leader, who was elected Palo Alto’s first Hispanic mayor, prefers the local scene.

“At the national level you’re working on policy issues that you know will have a significant impact. But if you’re working on say Social Security, 15 years later does it really look all that different?” he asks.

Espinosa speaks from experience. After getting his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University, Espinosa moved to Washington, D.C. “I didn’t know anyone or have a job but it is the heart of government in this country,” he says.

After a short stint working with the Democratic National Committee, he accepted a position as a speech writer with the Clinton Administration. It was through this experience that he took a job in the Justice Department advising then Attorney General Janet Reno. Espinosa’s admiration for Reno is evident when he talks about her: “To be able to work directly with her for a number of years was really life shaping. She became a mentor for me. She was the kind of person I wanted to be professionally.”

He then reconnected with Carolyn Curiel. Curiel, who hired Espinosa for the speech writing position, had moved from the White House to serve as ambassador to Belize. She offered Espinosa a post as one of her advisors.

A short time later, Espinosa made the decision to return to his native California. Having cultivated an interest in philanthropy in graduate school, he began pursuing private sector positions that would marry his love of philanthropy and public service. He found such a position first at Hewlett-Packard and now at Microsoft.





Early Influences




Public service seems to be in the 39-year-old Espinosa’s blood. His Norwegian and Scottish mother was a teacher who eventually ran a nonprofit organization focused on improving math skills for underprivileged children. More recently she joined the Peace Corps, working in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Espinosa’s parents met in his father’s native Mexico. The two married and moved to the Silicon Valley during its boom time. An engineer, Espinosa’s father worked for Atari, IBM and other technology companies. He was the first in his family to attend college in his native Mexico.

Growing up in Gilroy, Calif. (the Garlic Capitol of the World), Espinosa learned to appreciate his rural heritage, which he says made him independent and self-sufficient. The family kept horses and rabbits and maintained some fruit trees. His childhood experiences also fostered a love of animals, open space and nature, helping him appreciate food and its origin as well as value hard work.

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