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The New West

[whitespace] Tony West
Christopher Gardner

Political up-and-comer remembers the old days

By Will Harper

When political up-and-comer Tony West was growing up, he recalls, there was a sprawling apricot orchard right behind his Evergreen home. Aside from its pastoral beauty and springtime blossoms, it also provided a summer pastime for kids in search of a snack. Now, the orchard's long gone, replaced by chunky blocks of tract houses. The change of scenery doesn't bum him out, though. Dynamic cities change, he says. San Jose just isn't an orchard town anymore. It's the self-professed capital of Silicon Valley.

"We're at the heart of the high-tech revolution," he gushes.

Not that West is a techie. He's an assistant U.S. attorney who works downtown in the federal building. But it was high tech that brought West and his family to San Jose 30 years ago.

In 1967, when he was 2, West's folks moved to San Jose's Evergreen neighborhood from San Francisco after his father, an engineer, got a job at IBM. Growing up, Tony never quite understood exactly what his dad did at work. Something about disk-heads or hard drives. Whatever he did, Tony knew it required pens. His dad carried around a lot of pens. Of course, he understands all the tech stuff better now. He has surfed the Net and seen that it is good.com.


Name: Tony West
Age: 32
Occupation: Federal prosecutor, planning commissioner
City of Origin: Born in S.F., moved to S.J. when 2.
How Long Here? 30 years
Hobbies and Interests: Jogging, racquetball, jazz
Favorite Place in the valley: Agenda Lounge, Starbucks in the Pavilion.

He did follow his father's footsteps another way. Like his dad, Franklin, Tony is a city planning commissioner. He says that since he was a kid, he knew he'd go into politics. In his first year at Bellarmine Preparatory School (where he was one of the four black students in his class), he was elected freshman representative to the Associated Student Body. As a senior, he served as student body president and even dated the student body president from Bellarmine's all-female counterpart, Notre Dame High School.

Maybe because he's running for council now, it's impossible to get West to say a negative word about his hometown. He's an irrepressible booster. He drops the phrase "world-class community" repeatedly. Asked in what ways San Jose has gotten worse over the past 20 years, he pauses as if this were a totally absurd line of inquiry. "One concern I do have," he allows, "is that we not become content with our success."

Just look at the downtown, he suggests. When West takes his regular jog up Second Street, he can't help but notice all the new stuff that wasn't there just a few years ago. The Fairmont. The Pavilion. Zanotto's. The bistros and microbreweries. And people. No one ever used to come downtown, he'll tell you. Now there are signs of life.

For West, there is no place he would rather be. Except maybe in a sixth-floor office on Hedding Street.

[line]

The New Silicon Valley:

Suddenly we're cool.

It's all about speed.

The next generation of movers and shakers.

Silicon Valley through the decades.

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From the January 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro.

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