Esteemed individuals meet, mingle as they are honored for their services to the SCV
A group of esteemed individuals met at Salt Creek Grille on Thursday to celebrate another year of success in the Santa Clarita Valley — and to be honored for their placement on The Signal’s annual list of the SCV’s Top 51 most influential people.
Signal Publisher/Owner Richard Budman invited the Top 51 of Santa Clarita’s most influential people of 2023, with Fifth District Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger taking the top spot for the first time in what was the 19th edition of the luncheon. Barger made sure to thank Budman for bringing everyone together once again.
“I would argue that we should all be giving you a big round of applause,” Barger said after Budman invited her to speak to a roaring ovation from the attendees at Salt Creek Grille.
Barger recognized the other honorees in her speech, including, but not limited to: No. 2 Ken Striplin, Santa Clarita city manager; No. 7 Laurene Weste, a member of the Santa Clarita City Council; No. 12 Capt. Justin Diez of the SCV Sheriff’s Station; No. 25 Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami; and No. 11 Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District.
“I want to thank you, whether it be law enforcement, whether it be the building community, whether it be our nonprofits, our hospitals, City Council,” Barger said. “I know up here in Santa Clarita it is about collaboration, about community, it’s about working together. So, I am honored. I never expected it.”
In his speech, Budman said that it is because of the Top 51 that Santa Clarita is able to function the way it does, the work that they do allowing the rest of the city’s residents to do what they need to do.
“It really is the people that make Santa Clarita great. The thousands and thousands of people, literally thousands — city workers, hospital workers, first responders, clerks,” Budman said. “But it’s the 51 people on the list and in this room that are the catalysts that make everything happen in town and push the other people to do what’s right and make sense.”
The honored guests got to mingling while waiting for their food to arrive, bringing county and city employees together, educational leaders together with business leaders, as well as a member of the clergy.
That would be Blazer, who has stepped into the spotlight in recent weeks since Israel was attacked by the terrorist group Hamas. That spotlight grew larger when a former Canyon Country resident was killed a couple of weeks ago during a clash between demonstrators in Thousand Oaks over the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Blazer said that he is aware of what he stands for in Santa Clarita as one of the leaders of the Jewish community.
“Because there are not many Jewish institutions in Santa Clarita,” Blazer said, “I have a larger responsibility to be a voice for the community, to be a resource for the Jewish community, to be a connector between our community and other communities.”
Diez touted the work that the SCV Sheriff’s Station has done to promote fentanyl awareness over the past year. He recognized that Budman has helped in that aspect, sponsoring the Fentanyl Town Hall earlier this year.
“We’re continuing to partner with these other nonprofits out here for fentanyl awareness,” Diez said. “We’ve done it with the Hart school district, we did it with the county, with The Signal, with the city with our Parent Resource Symposium.”
He also noted that deputies have been working overtime as a staff shortage leaves the station stretched thin at times. Station officials recently reported that the station is currently at about 70% of its normal capacity.
“One of our big accomplishments has really been continuing the service, given those staffing shortages,” Diez said. “Of course, we’re doing it with overtime and doing it with moving units around and stuff. But as simple as it sounds, continuing the police service with what we have, or with the lack of what we have, it’s been a huge, huge accomplishment for us.”
Weste, who said she’s lost count of the number of times she has been honored as a member of the Top 51, spoke on the diversity in the community. She said the different walks of life that were present at Salt Creek Grille on Thursday proves that it truly takes a community effort to make the city work.
“It’s representative of all the organizations, the huge amount of nonprofits, the different governmental agencies, and we all have to work together to create this community,” Weste said. “And it’s really a labor of love by everybody, because so many of them, it’s not just your job, it’s a passion.”
And while the guests were honored to be included, some for the first time and some who couldn’t recall how many times it has been, it’s the honor, many said, that makes them want to continue to do their jobs well.
Barger said she is most proud of the mental health awareness that she has been promoting over the past year, especially with the youth.
“You look around the room today, when you see someone’s abuse counselor here, that all ties to mental health, and our youth are really having a tough time,” Barger said. “COVID was not good to our kids. So, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve built momentum on increasing mental health services throughout the county.”
Barger went to say that she is honored to be listed at the top of the list of the Top 51, but even if she was elsewhere on the list, or not on it at all, she would continue to fight for the communities she represents.
“I wake up every morning and I work hard,” Barger said. “I always push myself to do more. Being No. 1, obviously, is an honor, but I’d push myself if I was No. 4, No. 5, No. 8, No. 51.”
For a full list of the Top 51 of 2023, visit tinyurl.com/3y82ne53.