George Caravalho, Santa Clarita’s first city manager, dead at 81

George A. Caravalho, Santa Clarita's first permanent city manager. Courtesy of SCVHistory

George A. Caravalho, Santa Clarita’s first permanent city manager, died Sunday at the age of 81, according to friends and colleagues. 

Caravalho, a married father of two, was retired and living in Santa Cruz.

A year after the city’s inception in 1987, he was hired as the first permanent city manager after interim manager Fred Bien, who established Santa Clarita’s initial government structure. 

He served in Santa Clarita from 1988 to 2002, retiring in 2008 after serving as director of Dana Point Harbor in Orange County. 

“George Caravalho helped construct the foundation of the city of Santa Clarita,” Ken Striplin, current city manager, said in a statement. “His mastery of management supported the City Council’s vision of what our city could be and has become — a safe, family-friendly place to live, work and play – with beautiful parks, miles of trails, transportation options, commerce, strong infrastructure and solid financial footing. He paved the way for me as a city manager, and I will always value him as a mentor, colleague and friend.”

“He was a wonderful man and a great leader for a new City Council,” said Dennis Koontz, a member of Santa Clarita’s first City Council that hired Caravalho. 

Before joining Santa Clarita, Caravalho worked as a city manager in Bakersfield and executive director of the redevelopment agency from 1984-88. He also served on the board of directors for multiple organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club and the League of California Cities, according to SCVHistory.com. 

Caravalho earned the International City/County Management Association Mark E. Kean Award for Excellence in 1996 for outstanding contributions to government, as well as receiving more than 40 awards for innovation and excellence, SCVHistory added.

“We were just talking about the first City Council,” said Linda Storli, Koontz’s wife and former Santa Clarita Parks commissioner. “We love our city and it had good strong beginnings from people that weren’t politicians and we are a great city because of the things they did, including hiring Caravalho.”

Some current council members had the chance to work with Caravalho, including Councilman Bob Kellar and Councilwoman Laurene Weste. 

“I had the privilege of working under George Caravalho,” said Kellar. “The reality of it is that when I came on board the City Council, I cannot express the time he took to help me understand the workings of the city and council. In a major way, we have to thank him for the quality of life here in Santa Clarita. He did a phenomenal job.

“He was our first city manager and we’re a great city; so, we’re glad he was able to do that job,” said Weste, who added that he played a major role in seeking funding for the Sports Complex on Centre Pointe Parkway, which was named after him. 

Details about his funeral are pending.

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