Santa Clarita wins Helen Putnam Awards for college internship program and city mascot

Stella Hourigan, 2, hugs city mascot Sammy Clarita during a special reading of a city-produced children’s book, co-authored by Communications Manager Carrie Lujan (right) and read by Mayor Marsha McLean (left) Thursday, Feb. 6, 2019. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

The League of California Cities has awarded the city of Santa Clarita with the Helen Putnam Awards for its “innovative” college internship program and its mascot “Sammy Clarita,” officials announced Thursday. 

The 2020 winners were recognized for their “outstanding programs” out of 110 submissions and awards were presented in front of a virtual crowd of more than 1,500 city officials, including Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who accepted the awards on behalf of Santa Clarita. 

The city devised a college internship program to train new staff in the public sector before the aging workforce retired, ahead of a “silver tsunami,” or the expected increase in the older adult population. The program was developed to provide students with experience in their career fields while exposing them to opportunities in local government. Since the program’s launch in 2018, the city has hosted 33 interns, 11 of whom are now working full-time in public service for the city or another public agency.

See: City’s 1st female building inspector blazes trail

In 2017, the city introduced the community to a new mascot, Sammy Clarita, a horse that teaches young residents about the city’s history, projects and events. Children learn to appreciate the importance of their city through scavenger hunts where the final prize is their own stuffed Sammy Clarita. The horse mascot was so well-liked that the city also published a children’s book, filled with city stories told by Sammy, which is now available in local libraries.

The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence recognizes outstanding achievements by California’s 482 cities. These winning cities have made unique contributions to community residents and businesses, contributions that have resulted in lower costs or more effective delivery of services. The purpose of the awards program is to promote innovative solutions by city governments. 

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