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Karina Quintanilla | Mayor, City of Palm Desert

Karina Quintanilla | Mayor, City of Palm Desert

Quintanilla becomes the first Latina to be appointed Mayor of The City of Palm Desert. Located in California’s Coachella Valley, Palm Desert was incorporated 1973.

Karina Quintanilla a Coachella Valley resident since 1984 and has lived in Palm Desert since 2002 was appointed Mayor at a city council meeting on December 14, 2023. Quintanilla after graduating from Cathedral City High School in 1997, attended University of California, Riverside where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish. According to the city’s website,  Palm Desert has over 53,000 full-time residents and over $1.66 billion in taxable sales.

“It is a privilege to be the new Mayor in the City of Palm Desert, and I’m honored to be the first Latina and youngest woman to serve in the role. This milestone is only possible because of the tireless support of family, friends, and the friends who have become family. said Quintanilla in her LinkedIn posting announcing her accession to the position of mayor. 

In 2012 Karina completed the coursework for a credential program to teach Spanish. She is currently in pursuit of a Master’s in Public Administration.

When Karina returned to Palm Desert, she reflected on the impact of education and the educational attainment rates for the region. She made a personal commitment to find a way to make a difference. Her career in education spanned universities, vocational schools, nonprofit and for profit institutions, in both the public and private sectors.

These diverse experiences developed her ability to connect with individuals and advocate for their needs so they can reach their goals. She still maintains contact with former advisees who, in addition to being great people, succeed in their fields as doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers” medical assistants, and other essential workers.

While at CSU San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus (CSUSB-PDC), Karina developed a tutoring program to reduce the time required to transfer from College of the Desert to CSUSB-PDC and was awarded $240,000 from the Cal-Wellness Foundation to fund professional tutors at two local high schools.

In 2015, Karina was selected by Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) for their Leadership Institute where she honed community engagement and leadership skills. Through HOPE, Karina and her fellow participants lobbied State Senators in Sacramento to pass Senate Bill 4, Health For All, bringing accessible healthcare to all Californians, as well as Senate Bill 15, which redirected unused funds for Cal-Grant Scholarships.

Karina’s passion for translating came from being her family’s translator since the age of five. She became aware of the impact of culturally competent translations and how her linguistic abilities could serve others. Karina put them to use in translating documents and two books. Local author and publisher Vicki Mills credited Karina as co-author of the Spanish version of her book Any Body Can Enjoy Computers. The book was an opportunity to help bring computer literacy to Spanish speaking adults in a digital age.

In 2005, Karina was hired as Career Guidance Specialist at her alma mater, Cathedral City High School, where she was Co-Coordinator of the Scholarship Program. She was a founding member of the HEAL Health Academy Advisory Board. In 2013 she returned as a long term substitute Earth Science teacher. She was also a four year member of the Band Booster for the Cathedral City High School Royal Regiment, serving as a board member, chaperone and live translator during meetings.

A blood donor since 1996 and registered bone marrow donor since 2000, Karina has donated over eleven gallons in the Coachella Valley in whole blood, platelets and plasma. She is an organ donor, believing that everyone should have an opportunity to live the healthiest and happiest life possible.

Of all the accomplishments Karina has achieved in her career and time in the Coachella Valley, she is most proud of her family. Her teenage daughters inspire her, give her purpose and aspire to leave tomorrow a better place than the present. Karina’s values were shaped by her family as they grew up in Thousand Palms.


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