Hailed as the city of Santa Clarita’s matriarch, four-time mayor Jo Anne Darcy passed away at the age of 86 on Sunday, Oct. 29.
One of the city’s founding members, Darcy served on city council from 1987 to 2002 where she was instrumental in the city’s formation.
“Jo Anne had that kind of grandmotherly presence, but behind that was a woman who knew how to fight and was able to accomplish a lot of things behind the scenes where she showed that toughness,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said.
Just last Thursday at the annual State of the City luncheon, Santa Clarita reflected on Darcy and the rest of the original city council’s work to form the city.
In a video taken at her final council meeting in April 2002, Darcy shares her heart for Santa Clarita, which Smyth said is genuine and true to character.
“So many emotions have passed through my life, so many tributes I’ve been given – not deserving, I don’t think,” Darcy said in the video. “But I have been a part of those organizations and those things that happened. And when I look at our city today, I realized what a great thing happened when we did become a city. It is nothing but great.”
Santa Clarita’s incorporation is greatly credited to Darcy, according to Smyth.
“I genuinely believe we would not have been a city if not for her,” Smyth said.
Darcy’s passing now brings the total of former council members’ deaths to three.
“Heaven now has a quorum of Santa Clarita city council members,” the mayor said. “She and George Pederson and my dad (Clyde Smyth) are still very proud that the city council members are still following the vision the original council members have set.”
Darcy served as a field representative for then-County Supervisor Michael Antonovich in the Santa Clarita Valley where she helped connect the city and the county when Santa Clarita incorporated.
“Jo Anne was the personification of the can-do spirit who cared deeply about the valley and served so many residents working in our office and on the Santa Clarita City Council,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who worked with Darcy as a deputy to former Supervisor Antonovich said in a statement.
“With the severe damage and isolation sustained by the valley during the Northridge Earthquake, Jo Anne’s efforts to manage the emergency were beyond impressive. I admired Jo Anne and appreciated her decades of service.”
Barger said she will adjourn the Board of Supervisor’s Oct. 31 meeting in Darcy’s honor and sends her prayers to Darcy’s family and friends.
The Saugus resident also served on the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, the Small Business Development Center Business Survival Committee and the College of the Canyons Special Task Force on Small Business.
She was also the executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, the founding officer and president of the Zonta Club of SCV and a founding member of the SCV Historical Society and the Association to Aid Victims of Domestic Violence.
Showing her love of libraries, Darcy was a founding officer of the Friends of the Libraries of SCV, was the chair of the City of Santa Clarita Entrepreneurial Library Council, was on the Santa Clarita Valley Special Task Force on Library Enhancement and the Canyon Country library is named after her.
Among her many awards, she was honored as Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce, the Founder’s Service Award from the Western Walk of Fame, Outstanding Woman of the Year for the Senior Center and was the first woman to receive Citizen of the Year by the Elks Lodge.
Darcy was instrumental in incorporating the committee on aging to become the SCV Senior Center, according to Senior Center Director of Supportive Services Susanne Nelson.
If it were not for Darcy, there would be no Senior Center, Nelson said.
“She was very tenacious and if she had a goal in mind, she wouldn’t let go,” Nelson said. “She was truly a guiding light.”
It is difficult to encapsulate Darcy’s life with all her accomplishments, said Councilwoman Laurene Weste, who viewed Darcy as a mother-figure, her mentor and her best friend.
“Jo Anne was the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley for decades,” Weste said. “She was history’s personification.”
Weste, who served on the council alongside Darcy for four years, remembers her heart for children, seniors and animals.
“She was always there to do the things that made us a strong community and she loved everybody,” she said.
In her work, Darcy was tough and served as an advocate and problem solver, Weste said.
Plans are pending for a community memorial service to honor Darcy’s life and work.
“So many people loved Jo Anne, we want to make sure its accessible,” Weste said.
Darcy leaves behind her four children, Gary, Darrell, Richard and Joleen.