Connie Worden-Roberts, a driving force behind Santa Clarita city incorporation, a fighter for "local control" and a promoter of municipal infrastructure for which she was known as the area's "road warrior," died Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Santa Clarita, Calif. She was 83.
Worden-Roberts helped create the city of Santa Clarita in 1987 after having co-chaired the first of two efforts in the late 1970s to break the Santa Clarita Valley away from Los Angeles County. Both efforts prevailed at the ballot box within the proposed "Canyon County," but the rest of L.A. County elected to keep us.
A decade later, as vice-chair of the City of Santa Clarita Formation Committee, she handled a lot of the "mechanics" of city formation — negotiating with county supervisors and the Local Agency Formation Commission, rounding up support from community leaders, and verifying thousands of signatures needed to put cityhood on the November 1987 ballot. She was subsequently appointed to Santa Clarita's first Planning Commission.
Longtime chair of the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia (later SCV) Chamber and Canyon Country Chamber's Transportation Committee, she organized the nonprofit SCV Transportation Management Association and was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich to the North County Transportation Coalition. She was also a chairwoman of the League of Women Voters in Los Angeles County, and in 1981, she played a prominent role in the creation of the Valley Industry Association (VIA), then called the Valencia Industrial Association.
She was named the 1975 SCV Woman of the Year and was saluted as Woman of the Year three times by the California Legislature. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the SCV Press Club in 2005, a 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award and 2011 Founder's Award from VIA, and several "51 Most Influential" nods from The Signal newspaper. In May 2014, capping more than four decades of service, she was honored with a lifetime achievement award by Santa Clarita officials and presented with a key to the city.
Connie was born Constance Alice Batterman on Nov. 19, 1930, in Fairmont, Minn., to Albert R. Batterman of Minnesota and Alice R. (Krumholz) Batterman of Illinois. She moved to California in 1949 after marrying Harvey Edward Worden and studied English and archaeology at San Jose State College. She stayed at home in the 1960s to raise her only child while Harvey supported the young family through his career as a Lockheed Skunk Works flight test manager. In the fall of 1970, the family moved to the Valencia Hills neighborhood in the Santa Clarita Valley, and Connie worked with programs for gifted children at Valley State College (later called California State University, Northridge).
She became active in numerous civic and volunteer organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley and tutored students in reading through the Great Books program. In 1974 she was the first woman elected to the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley, and from December 1974 to December 1979 she served on the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board.
In 1975, Connie was first elected to the board of the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber of Commerce and brought together regional, state and federal representatives to address local traffic and other civic needs prior to the formation of the city, which would eventually take over the tasks.
She was a member of the North County Citizens Planning Council, the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital speakers bureau, the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates, the Friends of Hart Park and the SCV Parade Committee. In 1980, she worked as a special assistant to the president of HR Textron, Samuel X. Garcia, and later with state Assemblywoman Marian La Follette.
In 1979-80 she led the successful "Dump the Dump" effort to block the siting of a toxic landfill in the Santa Clara River bed in Sand Canyon. A decade and a half later she spearheaded the formation the Whittaker-Bermite Citizens Advisory Group, pressing the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the cleanup of a contaminated, 1,000-acre property in the center of the valley formerly used for munitions manufacturing and testing. As a longtime director (2000 president) of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, she helped rally support within the business community for the City of Santa Clarita's fight against a federally approved sand-and-gravel mining project in Soledad Canyon.
Worden-Roberts is perhaps best remembered for her role in championing the development of the cross-valley connector. The 8½-mile roadway (Golden Valley-Newhall Ranch roads) provided a vital, gridlock-alleviating, east-west traffic corridor between Interstate 5 and Highway 14.
Along the way, Connie married William Roberts, a branch manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California. Connie and Bill's house in Valencia was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and Bill died from leukemia four weeks later.
Connie is survived by her son, Leon Worden (Susan Shapiro); grandson John Jake Medina Worden; and companion Harold Ashton. She is predeceased by her first husband, Harvey Edward Worden (1927-1999), and second husband, William R. Roberts (1928-1994). She is predeceased by siblings Lloyd Batterman, Albert "Swede" Batterman and Marjorie Peters.
She is survived by siblings Joyce (Deane) Heller of Minneapolis; M. Kay (Delbert) Gangelhoff of Cass Lake, Minn.; Paul (Nancy) Batterman of Grand Rapids, Minn.; Claudia (Nelse) Grundvig of Madison, Wis.; Allan (Shari) Batterman of Makinen, Minn.; and sister-in-law Sharon (Swede) Batterman of Glendive, Mont. Predeceased by two nephews, she is survived by nine nieces and nephews, eight grand-nieces and -nephews, and her loyal Zonta family.
A graveside funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 23, at 2 p.m. at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary, located at 23287 Sierra Highway in Newhall, followed by a reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Old Town Newhall Library, 24500 Main St. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley are encouraged.