Leon Worden

Mayor Clyde Smyth outlines priorities

Leon Worden · December 11, 1996

If all is right and well in Santa Clarita, we awoke to a new mayor this morning. I say "if" because I'm writing this before the fact. But if the sun came up today, then chances are the City Council voted last night to name Clyde Smyth our new mayor and Jan Heidt mayor pro tem.

Now let's set one thing straight. Every year, some misinformed "Tell It" caller complains that our mayor is not elected. Wrong. Our mayor is an elected member of the City Council. Clyde Smyth was elected to the council in 1994 -- by a plurality of the 17 percent of the public who bothered to vote. But that's a matter for another day.

What matters today is that we have a new mayor. His vote carries no more weight than those of the other four council members, but as chief spokesman for the city he sets the "tone" that our local government will take for the next 12 months. He presides over council meetings and sets an agenda -- an outline of goals generally supported by his council colleagues -- when he takes office.

Smyth is new to the mayor's seat, but he's no stranger to Santa Claritans. Raised in Pasadena, he did a tour in Korea and stayed in the Reserves while he pursued a teaching career. He was hired as principal at Placerita Junior High in 1969 and retired in 1992 after a 17-year stint as superintendent of the Hart High School District. His wife, Sue, retired this year from her teaching job in Newhall. They have two sons.

"My method of operation is to work for compromise and find a middle path," Smyth said recently. "The council gets along pretty well, and with a good staff and supportive community, we have been able to get some things done."

Some of the things that are already under way which Smyth wants to bring to fruition are an updated valley-wide road plan, the completion of the hotel and conference center in Valencia, and the opening of the Edwards Cinema complex in Canyon Country.

Smyth anticipates intense debate over four issues which he lists as top priorities for 1997.

  • Newhall redevelopment. "You cannot allow one section of your community to deteriorate without it affecting every other area," Smyth says. "Newhall is where we have to make it happen, because if we don't, the problem will spread from east to west, from San Fernando Road to the I-5 freeway south of Lyons."

    Smyth believes redevelopment can be a catalyst to bring private investment into downtown Newhall. "This is the year we must step forward and stem the tide of deterioration. Time is short."

  • Santa Clarita Central Park. Prop. A, approved by voters in November, earmarks funds for the construction of a central park on Bouquet Canyon Road, below the Castaic Lake Water Agency's Rio Vista water treatment plant. Negotiations between the city and CLWA have been ongoing throughout 1996, and except for a few dotted i's and crossed t's, the new park is almost a reality.

    "Significant strides have been made to establish a positive relationship with the CLWA, and with just a bit more effort and cooperation, we will produce a facility that will serve us for years to come." The new park is slated to include baseball and soccer fields, a tot lot, an Olympic-sized pool and other amenities.

  • Growth outside the city. Most growth in our valley is happening outside city limits, beyond the council's jurisdiction. "This may be the most difficult," Smyth admits. "We must develop strategies to deal with development that diverts sales tax revenue away from the city, and dense housing projects that impact our roads."

    Smyth wants to explore sales tax sharing agreements, and infrastructure enhancements where developers outside the city would pay for improvements inside the city.

  • Elsmere. "The big one is dead, but we have got to watch very carefully to make sure a smaller one doesn't go through."

    Smyth voted last month to fire controversial Elsmere consultant Bill Hussey. "I don't believe Hussey did a million dollars' worth of work," Smyth says. "(The initial dump proposal) died because of Congressman Buck McKeon's efforts and Barbara Boxer's strength on the Senate side. We must remain alert to any possible new landfill, no matter the size."

Despite the complexity of the issues they face, Smyth believes the council is up to the challenge.

"We sometimes disagree on the 'how,' but there is never much disagreement on 'what' needs to be done for our city."

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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