News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 08/13/2009
Subject :

Long-time Managers to Retire from Palo Alto’s Community Services Department
Contact : Greg Betts, Interim Director, Community Services Department    650-463-4952
Palo Alto, CA –  City Manager James Keene has announced the retirement of three longtime division managers in the Community Services Department: Linda Craighead, Arts and Sciences Division Manager; Kathy Espinoza-Howard, Cubberley Center and Human Services Division Manager; and Don Piana, Interim Open Space and Park Division Manager. Piana and Espinoza-Howard will retire on August 21, while Craighead will retire on September 5. 

"While we have expected for some time that these dedicated managers would be retiring someday soon, we will still really miss Linda, Kathy, and Don. They have each made significant contributions to the City and community, many that we will enjoy long into the future," said Keene. “They each leave behind a legacy of dedicated service, successful initiatives and innovation, along with talented employees who will continue to provide quality service to the community. We wish them well as they transition into the next phase of their lives."

“I am extremely grateful to these managers for their tremendous leadership and devotion to the organization, and to the enhancement of our community,” said Greg Betts, Interim Director of the Community Services Department. “Through their passion, talent and hard work, they leave Palo Alto a better place in which to live, work and play.”

Linda Craighead joined the City in June 1992, first as the Palo Alto Art Center Director and then as the Division Director for Arts and Sciences. During her tenure, numerous art exhibitions, educational programs, and special events were offered to engage all age groups and abilities. Specific initiatives she oversaw included six nationally recognized exhibitions, including Myth and Magic: Oaxaca Past and Present, all that toured the country, a ceramic studio that is the best in the region, and a children's program that enriches the life of every child who participates, including Cultural Kaleidoscope, recognized as a model program for the State of California. Over the last two years, Craighead has led the reorganization of the Division of Arts and Sciences including the recruitment for key positions for the Children’s Theatre, the Junior Museum and Zoo, and the Art Center. All have new directors, accomplished professionals in their fields who bring innovative ideas, great expertise and a huge spirit of collaboration. Craighead worked closely with the Public Art Commission, a group of passionate volunteers, to support art in public places and she collaborated with City staff, friends and community volunteers who are as passionate about the arts as she is. 

“My biggest accomplishment is working with a team of dedicated, creative people who value the arts and the process that nurtures innovation in our lives—in our community for everyone no matter how young or old. I can leave knowing that the programs will thrive under the leadership of our three new managers, Karen Kienzle at the Art Center, John Aikin, at the Junior Museum and Zoo, and Judge Luckey, at the Children’s Theatre,” said Craighead. “And, I’ve been inspired by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation Board’s work over the years for putting together a building project to create a space for our programs to grow—a legacy for the community and a place that celebrates the arts. Their campaign is building everyday towards success through the generosity of individuals that recognize the great importance of the Art Center as the creative heart of the community.”

Kathy Espinoza-Howard was hired by the City of Palo Alto eleven years ago in the Human Services Division of the Department of Community Services. As Division Manager, she organized the effort to create the Elsa Segovia Day Center for homeless women and their children, was on the planning and implementation Working Group that constructed the Opportunity Center, and chaired the City Planning Committee to guide the project through the City’s approval process. She led the Family Resources Program that provides a web site of family service information, the Family Resources Ambassador Program that provides training on family services to the residents of Palo Alto and established over eighty community kiosks that provide family service information in local libraries, community centers and schools. Espinoza-Howard served as staff liaison to the City of Palo Alto’s Human Relations Commission for the past 11 years. She was a member of the Santa Clara County Taskforce to establish the County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. She has worked closely with staff from the 15 cities in Santa Clara County to develop a regional approach to addressing homelessness and serves as the chairperson for the Bay Area Regional Initiative (BARI), which is composed of businesses, non-profits, foundations and elected officials from cities and counties in the Bay Area. For the past five years, Espinoza-Howard served as Facility Manager for the Cubberley Community Center, which involved managing the rental operation, center maintenance, field management and was project manager for numerous center construction projects.

“I am personally very satisfied with what I have accomplished in the City of Palo Alto. The safety net of services to the most vulnerable populations in the community was broken. I believe that I have mended it,” said Espinoza-Howard. “I am leaving a well organized and well trained staff that will greatly enhance the division’s vision. In retirement, I look forward to spending more time with my family and contributing in a different way to my community.”

Don Piana has worked for the City for the last 25 years. During his tenure, he created and implemented maintenance programs and services for City parks, playground facilities, athletic fields, tennis courts and other park amenities to ensure they remain clean, safe and aesthetically pleasing for visitors and users. Piana’s job spanned a range of duties such as keeping the landscaped areas of the business districts colorful with seasonal plantings and working on the design and renovation of many park playground facilities, including Rinconada Park. He was instrumental in helping the City earn the ICMA “Voice of the People Award” in 2006 for excellence in park services and achieving a ranking in the 91st percentile for Palo Alto, as compared to other jurisdictions. Over the years, Piana was responsible for many capital improvement projects, efficient use of natural resources and less toxic pest control and a willingness to try innovative approaches. He managed the City Parks Integrated Pest Management Program, has used alternative methods to reduce the use of pesticides in Palo Alto by 70% since the beginning of the program in 2002, and created the first pesticide free park, Sara Wallis Park. Additionally, he received a water conservation award in 2001 from the Rainbird Corporation. In 2000, he took a chance on the renovation of the Lawn Bowling green by changing the Bent turf grass surface to a more drought tolerant Bermuda grass surface and a new irrigation system. These changes were met with support by the lawn bowlers while reducing domestic water and pesticide use that were needed for various turf diseases on the original grass surface. 

“I have really enjoyed working for Palo Alto, both the City organization and the community. Some special memories for me are the wonderful opportunities I had to work with various residents, groups and associations on volunteer projects and park renovations such as the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club park and the City entrance landscape beautification projects and the installation of playground equipment at Mitchell Park,” said Piana. “My co-workers as well as the staff that I have managed have made these past years a pleasure to come to work. Any of my accomplishments reflect their hard work and the professionalism they continuously display.”

City Manager Keene and Interim Director of Community Services Betts will work closely with managers and staff to ensure that the community will enjoy continued program and service operations during this organizational transition.