Yiaway Yeh, Mayor of Palo Alto, CA
As the mayor of any metropolitan city knows, one must possess many qualities that address the needs of their constituency. The ability to have both long-range vision in addition to tackling the daily economic and social issues affecting their residents is paramount. This calls for a leader unafraid to make the difficult decisions now in order to make residential life better for future generations.
Mayor Yiaway Yeh, with a life-long love of community service, tackled a critical social issue effecting the teen population of Palo Alto. His focus on the environmental future of his Palo Alto residents is shaping into one of the most progressive initiatives in the country. He leads Palo Alto with a vision that community life and the active engagement of its citizens is the foundation for shaping public policy and moving the social, economic and environmental conversation forward. For this reason and more, DMO is proud to name Mayor Yiaway Yeh as our February DMO of the Month.
Growing up in Palo Alto (known to the world as Silicon Valley) and introduced to the world of public service as a high school student, Yeh was raised with a respect and knowledge of how a community functions. Elected in January 2012, at the age of 33, Yiaway Yeh is the second youngest mayor to lead the City of Palo Alto, (population 65,000). Yeh assumed this leadership role with years of experience in public service for the state of California. He honed his financial skills in public administration for the city of San Francisco, focusing on improvements to performance auditing and providing efficient oversight of the city's resources. Now he is focusing on the social and environmental issues affecting the Palo Alto residents.
In 2009, Mayor Yeh was a then-member of the Palo Alto City Council. Stunned by the sudden escalation in teen suicides in his city, Yeh led a convening of local business, religious, community leaders and parents to find a solution to this problem. The result was an innovative program called Project Safety Net. This public health initiative, collaboration between Stanford Hospital, Children's Hospital and the city of Palo Alto, gave residents an opportunity to remain engaged with the city's youth. The program allows for mental health services, intervention and educational outreach that allows for an inclusive environment for Palo Alto teens. Now in its third year, Mayor Yeh continues to expand the program through long-range planning and other outreach.
In addition to tackling Palo Alto's infrastructure issues and implementing community health initiatives, Mayor Yeh is strongly committed in his leadership of environmental issues in the city of Palo Alto. Two programs at the center of his planning— "Zero Waste” and "Carbon Neutral Portfolio” —both illustrate Yeh's commitment to the environment. The Zero Waste program's goal is to eliminate all waste that goes to landfills by the year by using innovative technology and community involvement. The program focuses on finding ways to reuse items (through composting and recycling) and discard waste permanently. While this program was well underway when Yeh took office, his support of the program and the community engagement surrounding it is critical to its success.
Mayor Yeh recently introduced a plan for his city to be carbon neutral—with a long-term goal of producing no emissions. While there is no deadline for this initiative, Yeh is focusing on the fact that they have the systems in place to make this a reality. Palo Alto is the only city in California that acts as its own utility board—with its own electric gas, water, waste water and fiber optic systems— that the city operates without the aid of an outside utility company. When this plan comes to fruition, it will mean lower costs and cleaner air for all the residents of Palo Alto.
Though only a few months into his term, Mayor Yeh has hit the ground running with progressive environmental and health initiatives, strong community participation and a vision to make Palo Alto a leader in social, community and conservation issues. It is for Yeh's active Democratic voice in municipal government that we honor him as the February DMO of the Month.