Our View | ’51’ List a Reflection of Community, and Change

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

Change can be sudden, or it can be gradual. You might think we’ve seen sudden change in the community with the results of the Nov. 6 election — congratulations, by the way, to Representative-elect Katie Hill and Assemblywoman-elect Christy Smith. However, the change in our community has been happening gradually, and the results of the Nov. 6 election are just one visible manifestation of that change.

For further evidence, we turn to the luncheon we hosted on Wednesday for those we honored in The Signal’s annual special section, “51.” (You can view the entire section online here: signalscv.com/top51.)

The yearly tribute was conceived 14 years ago as a way of recognizing the 51 most influential people in Santa Clarita in any given year. They come from various walks of life, but they are those who, in the opinion of The Signal, have the greatest impact on life in our community.

Some of them are captains of industry. Some of them are politicians. Some of them are bureaucrats, or educators. Some are activists. Some are in the headlines on a regular basis, and some do most of their work behind the scenes, eschewing fanfare.

No. 1 on this year’s list was Dianne Van Hook, chancellor of College of the Canyons. Her 30 years of leadership has meant the world to many thousands of Santa Clarita residents, as she has guided the community’s college through a period of transformation that has provided a wealth of affordable higher-education opportunities to the students of our valley.

Van Hook is just the tip of the 51-name iceberg. We invited everyone on the list to lunch this past week, and even with a few absences — including, in particular, some legislators and legislators-elect who are, understandably, busy with their day jobs — it was a rather impressive collection of leaders who shape the community we love.

It was also a reflection of the changes happening in our community. Of the original list of “51” we created 14 years ago, 17 of those individuals were also on this year’s list. So, there’s continuity and institutional memory among those who lead the Santa Clarita Valley.

Yet, that also means there were 34 individuals on the list who weren’t there 14 years ago.

Those names, new and old, have shifted in and out over time. Today’s list reflects how the leadership of the community has shifted: There are more elected officials and government employees on the list than there used to be, and fewer representatives from the business community.

More telling, though, is the fact that there are also more diverse viewpoints represented on the list than there were in the past. In 2005, the Santa Clarita Valley was a relatively homogeneous community that was part of a solidly Republican congressional district and equally solidly Republican state Assembly and Senate districts.

On Nov. 6, the SCV was part of an Assembly district and congressional district that, by narrow margins, elected Democrat challengers over Republican incumbents.

Both of those challengers —Hill and Smith — were on this year’s “51” list, which was created before the election.

They’re part of that transformation, a reminder that our community has changed since 2005, and is more socially and politically diverse than it ever has been.

One thing, though, that has not changed: Regardless of whether we agree with their individual political perspectives, we believe all 51 people on our “most influential” list have one thing in common: They care about the community we share, and they care about helping Santa Clarita continue to be a great place to live, work, play, do business and raise a family.

With increasingly diverse voices weighing in on the conversation about how to best accomplish that, it’s going to be ever more important in the years ahead for everyone — those on the “51” list and those who are not — to strive for mutual understanding, and a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

For our part, we pledge to work in that spirit, toward the betterment of the community, and we salute all of our community’s leaders, from the 2018 list of 51 to the leaders of the past who have shaped our community, and the leaders yet to come who will continue to shape its future.

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