Walking around Santa Clarita, it is apparent Jo Anne Darcy had her hands on much of the city’s formation.
Darcy has a lifetime achievement star on the Walk of Western Stars, there is a library named after her in Canyon Country and her photo hangs in City Hall.
One of Santa Clarita’s founding city council members, Darcy played her part in essentially all aspects of the city’s early years. She was on the council from 1987 to 2002 and served as mayor four times.
Council members past and present remember Darcy, who died at age 86 on Oct. 29, as the best member of the City Council the city has ever had, a recent survey by The Signal found.
The Signal reached out to all 14 current or former living City Council members, and of those, three declined to comment. There have been 17 total City Council members in Santa Clarita’s 30-year history .
“She was the best I’ve ever seen,” former Councilman Frank Ferry said. “She was a peacekeeper, a mediator and she treated everyone fairly.”
Forming the city
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.
“We were very fortunate that we had someone who had already been working with the county,” fellow original council member Dennis Koontz said. “She knew a lot about what was going on.”
As a councilwoman, Darcy took residents’ concerns seriously and was always thoughtful and engaging, founding mayor and former congressman Buck McKeon said. Though she was fun to be around, she was firm in her beliefs and tough on critical issues, according to McKeon.
“She didn’t trivialize things,” he said. “She was almost always smiling and cheerful. That’s just how I remember her.”
Before her time in politics, Darcy owned a bar in Acton with her husband Curtis. McKeon, who served on the council with Darcy for five years, said it was this experience that helped Darcy empathize with the city’s business community.
“She understood the importance of not overburdening people with regulations and rules,” McKeon said. “She was a good representative for people.”
Engaging with the community
Darcy 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 and was on the Santa Clarita Valley Special Task Force on Library Enhancement.
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.
According to Mayor Laurene Weste, who served alongside Darcy on the City Council for four years, she learned a lot about how to lead from Darcy, who served as her mentor.
“I am proud to have been able to have known such a strong woman who could carry off a brand-new city,” Weste said. “She was the matriarch in this valley.”
Every struggle Santa Clarita faced at its formation, Darcy helped resolve, according to Weste. It was Darcy’s determination and belief that Santa Clarita had potential that helped the city succeed, Weste said.
Darcy and Weste share a heart for parks and recreation, seniors, children and animals, she said. Her combination of graciousness and consideration with strength and service made Darcy indispensable, Weste said.
“I have never met anyone in my life who was kinder or more helpful,” Weste said. “She would really would go the distance to get people the help and assistance they needed.”
Councilman Bob Kellar served on the council with Darcy for two years and said he misses seeing her work actively in the city.
“Jo Anne, God bless that lady, she was so involved, heart and soul with the city and the Santa Clarita Valley,” Kellar said.
The councilman said Darcy served the valley as both a phenomenal person and leader.
“Thinking back to Jo Anne was her absolute unwavering commitment to this community and each and every individual that lived here,” he said.