Santa Clarita Public Information Officer Carrie Lujan recently had an interesting day at work. Lujan was called to the scene of a wayward bear in a Valencia neighborhood and watched as California Fish and Wildlife officers tranquilized the bear and removed it from the city.
“Every day on the job is different and you never know where it’s going to go,” Lujan said.
Several bears in the Santa Clarita Valley were spotted this past spring. However, when officials received a report of a bear in a tree near Mill Valley Road and Avenida Frasca in Valencia, they felt it was necessary for public safety to relocate the bear to its natural habitat.
“I am constantly amazed by the skill, dedication and care of our first responders,” she said. “The Fire Department, Fish and Wildlife and the Sheriff’s Department all worked together. The firefighters were able to perfectly maneuver their ladder to catch the bear and gently lower it down to safety.”
From print to TV
Lujan was born in Orange County, but attended elementary and high school in the east Bay Area. She graduated with a degree in speech communications from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and took her first journalism job at the Roseville Press Tribune, in the Sacramento area.
Lujan started at the small three-day-a-week newspaper covering the local news, but soon was doing page design, as well.
“I came in as a news reporter and when they found out I was good with the computer…I ended up laying out the entire paper. It was a great experience,” she said.
After nine months Lujan began seeking other challenges.
In 2000, she was offered a job at KCBS-TV as a production assistant and moved to the Los Angeles area.
“I’ve been all over the state,” Lujan said.
While at KCBS she worked on a feature-heavy talk show.
“It was like the L.A. version of ‘The View,’” Lujan said. “We had celebrity guests and cooking segments.”
Then the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred.
“I went from celebrity interviews to going through file footage of Ground Zero for weeks afterwards,” she said. “Everything was news, 24/7 after that for months.”
Lujan decided to return to her roots of local reporting and moved to Palm Springs as a producer and reporter for the ABC-TV affiliate station KESQ.
“I did that for four or five years,” she said. “I really enjoyed reporting. I covered everything from crime to local government, to events at the zoo and children’s stories, pretty much everything.”
From Palm Springs, Lujan made the jump to a public relations firm in West Hollywood where she worked for seven years.
“It was really fun. We represented a lot of lifestyle clients. I was the entire television department,” she said. “I would do appearances on morning television shows across the country.”
She would do segments featuring back-to-school supplies, fashion shows and cooking demos.
“It was really fun to see different parts of the country,” Lujan said.
However, the lure of finding work with more meaning, something more “substantial” took Lujan in a new direction.
“Coming from a news background, I missed doing work that made a difference or helped people in some way,” she said.
After looking at different career paths Lujan became interested in the position of Public Information Officer.
“I had worked with a lot of PIOs as a news reporter and I thought that might be a good next step for me,” she said.
Lujan was hired as the PIO in Santa Monica where she worked for three years.
She met Gail Morgan, the former PIO of Santa Clarita, at area conferences and came to Santa Clarita on one occasion to have lunch with Morgan to learn how she did things.
“I talked to her at the time she was retiring and she told me that if I was interested in the job I should apply,” Lujan said.
After Morgan retired, Lujan was hired as the new Santa Clarita PIO in November of 2016.
Carrie met Manuel Lujan while working at KCBS. After dating for four years they were married Sept. 17, 2005. The couple have two sons, Benjamin, 12 and Andrew, 9.
Dodger great Dusty Baker is Manuel’s cousin. Baker helped the Dodgers win pennants in 1977 and 1978, and to win the World Series in 1981.
Manuel Lujan is a director for the Dodger Network. He directs the pre- and post-game Dodger broadcasts seen on Spectrum SportsNet LA.
Born and raised in San Diego, Manuel left in high school to live with an uncle in Fresno. “He lived near a powerhouse school and he told me, ‘If you are going to play ball you should come here.’ So, I went there to play football and baseball.”
Manuel’s uncle worked in the television industry for the local NBC affiliate.
“I spent a lot of my nights at the station just soaking it all up,” he said.
When he graduated from high school, he was offered a summer job at the TV station, which turned into a fulltime job.
“It was an entry level job as a camera operator,” Manuel said. “I ran the studio cameras for the news. Then I became a stage manager, learned graphics, tape, became a technical director and then in a couple of years I was directing in Fresno.”
Manuel said knowing what he wanted to do early in life helped him focus on the correct career path. “It gave me a leg up over a lot of people,” he said.
At age 20 he was directing in Fresno, at age 23 he was offered a job at CNN in Atlanta. “I was directing the Spanish news,” he said. “It was a great experience. It was a smaller shop among their networks, but it was fast paced and I learned a lot.”
From CNN Manuel moved to KCBS in Los Angeles at age 25. He worked at KCBS for 15 years.
When the Dodgers decided to launch their own TV network, they called Manuel.
“They said, ‘We’d like you to help us get this thing going,’” he said. “I was there from day one. Before there was anything in the studio, it was just all bare concrete. So, I helped set up everything, and now we are in season six.”
In addition to his work with SportsNet LA, Manuel caught the acting bug after appearing in the film “Nightcrawler” with Jake Gyllenhaal. He also appeared on an episode of the ABC drama “Scandal” and was cast in the movie “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” starring Denzel Washington.
“My part was cut out of the film, but I got the experience of doing a nice scene with him, one on one. It was great to see him up close and watch him work. The one good thing is that they put my scene on the DVD extras so I have it for my reel. My kids can see it and that is nice.”
Loving the SCV
The couple moved to the SCV after Carrie was hired by the city.
“My husband and I love this area. We had looked at buying a house here when we both were working in Hollywood, but it didn’t make sense at the time because of the commute,” she said. “Working for the city of Santa Clarita gave us a chance to come here and be in a much more family-friendly environment for our boys and that was very appealing.”
The couple moved to Valencia in June, 2017. The couple said their quality of life has improved tremendously since moving to Santa Clarita.
“Our boys are able to walk to school now,” Carrie said. “When I worked in Santa Monica we couldn’t afford to live there. My kids went to a fantastic school, but it took 30 to 45 minutes to get there every day, even though it was only 3 miles away.”
For the Lujans everyday life in Santa Clarita is just “easier.”
“My husband and I joke that if we wanted to run one errand (on the Westside), it was an entire afternoon commitment. Here, I can get five things done on my lunch break,” Carrie said. “And there’s free parking. You don’t have to park in a parking garage to go to the grocery store.”
For Manuel, who started playing golf five years ago, the Santa Clarita golf courses, were a big plus.
“When we moved to Santa Clarita, which has so many beautiful courses, I realized I had a chance to really improve my game. You can find me (on the course) practically every day,” he said.
Manuel said the couple have been on the move nearly every two years since they’ve been together.
“We’ve moved quite a bit,” he said. “But for both of us, the minute we moved to Santa Clarita we said, ‘Hey, we’re home.’ We found the place we want to plant roots.”