Leon Worden

Which candidates care about us?

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, March 27, 1996

ith very few exceptions, Santa Claritans have been fortunate in having City Council members who truly care about our town. Not everyone might agree with all of their decisions, but the majority of our public officials are honest in their belief that they are doing the right thing.

Sometimes I think people don't really know what a thankless job it is to serve on a board and try to make our community a better place to live.

In the eight years since city formation, most of our council members have been people who volunteered their time for worthwhile causes and became community leaders in their own right before they ever decided to run for office.

In Santa Clarita, volunteerism reigns supreme.

Perhaps the biggest question you should ask yourself as you examine the current crop of City Council candidates is this: Which ones have demonstrated that they really care about our community?

Kevin Keyes and Frank Ferry are a pair of enthusiastic young men who are new to town and expressed an interest in local affairs almost upon arrival.

Kevin was the first to announce his candidacy and has spent the last couple of years building up a working knowledge of our city. He comes to many meetings and asks intelligent questions. All voters would do well to be half as informed as Kevin.

Frank Ferry is a 30 year old teacher at Valencia High School with a background in Republican politics. He could go far in public service locally if he puts the same kind of time and energy into local charitable pursuits that he has apparently devoted elsewhere in the Los Angeles area.

Every elected board, be it a school board, water board or the City Council, needs a Larry Bird. Larry Bird is a numbers guy. Larry may know more about the city budget, and where all the fiscal bones are buried, than 99 percent of the people at City Hall.

Larry attends almost every City Council meeting and scrutinizes every council agenda, cover to cover. I'll bet he can tell you how much money each separate attorney made off of the incumbent council's failed $1.1 billion redevelopment plan.

Among Larry's chief issues are code enforcement and the cleanup of blight in Newhall. Larry's diligence over the years no doubt helped Newhall get some of its new curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Laurene Weste and Gary Johnson are two candidates whose dedication to public service is unquestioned.

Gary Johnson came on the local scene about a dozen years ago and quickly became a leader in the business community. He served as president of the Valencia Industrial Association before moving on to the presidency of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Gary's efforts directly led to the unification of the two local chambers, helping close the rift between the east and west sides of town and better serving local businesses, big and small.

Gary Johnson believes that our valley's children hold the key to our future. Through his work with the chamber, the SCV Youth Master Plan Committee and the high school district's Regional Occupation Program, Gary has steered countless teens away from nefarious activities and into jobs.

Laurene Weste has been a fixture in our town for more than 20 years and has touched more lives than anyone realizes.

Some people know her as a local mover and shaker and the reigning Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year. Others know her as a Senior Center advocate, or an Historical Society board member, or a co-founder of a local crime-fighting group.

Still others know her as the lady who placed stray and abandoned dogs and cats in their homes. And some remember Laurene as the owner and operator of her own grocery store in downtown Newhall when she was just 20 years old.

A city Parks Commissioner for the past eight years, often reelected Chairman by her peers, Laurene Weste is responsible for opening several new parks, creating a cross-town trail system and preserving thousands of acres of open space in and around Santa Clarita, to make sure we don't become another San Fernando Valley.

Laurene Weste and Gary Johnson's commitment to public service, and their history of getting things done throughout the community, have earned them the support of such diverse groups as the Santa Clarita Area Mobile Homeowners Council and the Santa Clarita Valley Business Alliance.

Happy voting.

* * *

After tonight's forum at the Senior Center, the SCV Congress of Republicans and the Santa Clarita Young Republicans will host the candidates at 7 pm next Tuesday, April 2 in the Valencia Town Center Community Room.

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

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