By Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste
Residents who have lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for 30 years or more, since the incorporation of the City, may recall several key people who helped push our growing community into self-governance. Regardless of how long an individual has called Santa Clarita home, they are likely to recognize the names of our City’s founders, whose legacies endure even years after they have left the public office.
Among the original city councilmembers were Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Janice “Jan” Heidt, Jo Anne Darcy, Carl Boyer III and Dennis Koontz. Members of the City of Santa Clarita Formation Committee, who also contributed to Santa Clarita’s incorporation, were Lou Garasi, Connie Worden-Roberts and Art and Glo Donnelly, a few of a hundred people who deserve credit for the establishment of our great City.
These names are familiar to most of us in the City because they belong to the people who made prevailing impacts in Santa Clarita and whose names are now memorialized on our libraries, parks, bridges, train stations and other City facilities.
These men and women contributed to the formation of our infant city in their own ways and according to their gifts and interests.
Howard P. “Buck” McKeon was a strong businessman with great character and strong corporate skills. He took the reins of leadership and directed the City into the City Hall building that we have today. He also forged the expansion of the sheriff’s and parks programs, leading Santa Clarita to become one of the safest cities in the nation. Of these tasks, McKeon was once quoted, “…it was a bit fun, it was a bit of an adventure, it was a challenge and it was an education, and it was even a bit scary. We had wanted Santa Clarita to be a real city. We’d won that battle, and now we had to make a success of it.”
As the owner of a book store in Newhall and former communications officer for the Navy, Jan Heidt was the advocate for environmental causes and small businesses. She also supported and organized local military events and founded the Santa Clarita Valley Homeowners Coalition. Due to her work, three metro stations were built, one of which bears her name. This is only a fraction of her accomplishments with the City.
Dennis Koontz, a former L.A. City Fire Captain, was involved in civic programs such as the Senior Center, Zonta Club and the Boys & Girls Club. He understood the value of local-governance and the job that was at hand. He was once quoted as having said, “I can remember when we went to the state [before incorporation] and looked at what the planning was going to be like for our area. They didn’t have anything, they hadn’t really planned anything for Northern Los Angeles.” He understood that the future responsibility to plan the City would be on the shoulders of the community and its new leaders.
History, government and economics teacher, Carl Boyer III, assisted key aspects of the City’s formation. To his credit, he initiated the first City Council amendment to protect the oak trees. His service to others was also exemplified through his advocacy of literacy in schools in Nicaragua. Twenty-two years after the City’s incorporation, Boyer affirmed the City’s progress by saying, “I must express my admiration for the people who have served on the City Council over the years. Sometimes it’s not an easy job but they’ve gone out and they’ve done it, and I think it’s very much to their credit.”
Jo Anne Darcy served on the Santa Clarita City Council longer than any other founding member and contributed to the City in numerous ways, specifically playing a major role in the planning of areas within City limits. Her involvement in Santa Clarita has been commemorated by a plaque along the Walk of Western Stars, which she founded, and the title of Jo Anne Darcy Canyon Country Library. In reminiscing about the early years, Jo Anne Darcy said, “I can remember wanting a City a long time before I wanted to run… I think it was one of the best things we ever did because it brought the people together. It made us bigger and stronger and more unified and that’s where progress would begin to come from.”
At the incorporation of the City, there were only seven parks and no City trails or open space. Today, residents enjoy 34 beautiful and well-maintained parks! Before incorporation, street paving and maintenance were dependent on the County and the local Santa Clarita committees had to push very hard for additional attention for our growing area’s needs. Today, priority is placed on keeping Santa Clarita’s streets repaired and dependable. Before cityhood, our town was just another town by Magic Mountain. Santa Clarita has now become a travel, tourism and major filming destination, with an abundance of shopping and entertainment opportunities, outstanding restaurants, amusement and easy access to other points of interest.
Santa Clarita is now hailed as an outstanding City in the nation, with an incomparable trail network and thousands and thousands of acres of open space. Thank you City founders for your grassroots efforts in our humble beginnings.