Craig Hughes, elected Dec. 14 by his colleagues on the Town Council as the 2017 mayor of Portola Valley, is not unaccustomed to leadership positions.
Of 11 companies he's worked with, Mr. Hughes, who is 42, was founder or chief technical officer (and occasionally both) in seven of them. The projects he's worked on include anti-spam software, a Linux server the size of a stick of chewing gum, and software that allowed developers to design, test and distribute apps for digital TV.
As mayor, a title rotated among the council members, he will set agendas for and preside over council meetings. The council picked Councilman John Richards as vice mayor to chair council meetings in the mayor's absence.
When asked about priorities for the year ahead, Mr. Hughes had ready answers.
The council will be monitoring the effect on traffic of two commercial construction projects, the Windmill School at 900 Portola Road and the clubhouse renovation at the Alpine Hills Swim & Tennis Club at 4139 Alpine Road.
The drought is not over, and the town is engaged with the California Water Service company to install smart water meters in town, and the Water Conservation Committee continues its efforts to help residents conserve and reuse water.
Looking ahead 25 years, a committee has been gathering information from various council advisory committees and from the public, asking for ideas on the future of the 11.2-acre Town Center.
On the home front, the town is looking into ways to provide housing for various groups of people who work in town, including employees, teachers and sheriff's deputies.
In an effort to discourage criminal activity, the town manager is investigating the logistics and costs of setting up license-plate-reading cameras on roads used to enter and exit the town. The council hasn't decided yet to install the cameras. Two home-invasion robberies in town in 2016 have added an urgency to the matter.
Chief technical officer
Mr. Hughes is currently chief technical officer for Cognoa, a startup that uses machine learning and diagnostic data collected on more than 10,000 children to form the basis for an algorithm to analyze a child's behavior using information provided by the child's parents. The goal: detect children at risk for developmental delay and autism.
He served on the Architectural & Site Control Commission before running for a council seat in 2013. Mr. Hughes is bilingual (French and English) and has a limited proficiency in German, he said. He is a graduate of St. Paul's School, a high school in London, and is a few credits short of a bachelor's degree at Stanford University in symbolic systems a blend of cognitive science, artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction.
Mr. Hughes is married and has two children.
Asked about his governing philosophy, Mr. Hughes said it's been on display since 2013, when he was elected to the council. He noted listening, keeping an open mind and acting in the spirit of 1964, when the town was founded.
Finding ways to adapt to modernity while "preserving what's special about Portola Valley" is the key, he said.
"I think in most cases, I've found that it's not impossible," he said.