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Santa Clarita CA
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Today in
S.C.V. History
May 13
1825 - Town founder Henry Mayo Newhall born in Saugus, Mass. [read/watch]
Henry M. Newhall

| Monday, Oct 30, 2017
First City Council of the City of Santa Clarita in  1987. From left, Mayor Howard 'Buck' McKeon, Mayor Pro-Tem Jan Heidt, Council members Dennis Koontz, Jo Anne Darcy and Carl Boyer.
First City Council of the City of Santa Clarita in 1987. From left, Mayor Howard 'Buck' McKeon, Mayor Pro-Tem Jan Heidt, Council members Dennis Koontz, Jo Anne Darcy and Carl Boyer

The Santa Clarita Valley community is mourning the passing of city pioneer Jo Anne Darcy. Friends and colleagues were both saddened by her death, and grateful for her innumerable contributions to the quality of life SCV residents enjoy.

Read more about her life and times [here].

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Former Colleague:

“Jo Anne was the personification of the can-do spirit who cared deeply about the (Santa Clarita) Valley and served so many residents working in our office (as a deputy with former 5th District Supervisor Mike Antonovich) and on the Santa Clarita City Council.

“With the severe damage and isolation sustained by the Valley during the Northridge Earthquake, Jo Anne’s efforts to manage the emergency were beyond impressive. I admired Jo Anne and appreciated her decades of service. I will adjourn the Board of Supervisors’ meeting (Tuesday) in Jo Anne’s memory. Eric and I send our prayers to her family and friends.”

U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (Ret.), first Santa Clarita Mayor, 1987:

“It was my privilege to serve with Jo Anne on the first City Council. She was a great advocate for the people of our city, working both at the county level and the city level. (She was) a good person to work with.

“I haven’t seen her for a number of years and heard her health was failing, but still, it’s a shock when you hear of a friend passing away.”

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth:

“It’s hard to say that we would even be a city if not for Jo Anne and her efforts. And while she may have given off the kind grandmotherly air, Jo Anne was someone who knew how to fight, and nothing was going to get between her and what she wanted to do, particularly when it came to the city of Santa Clarita. We all certainly owe her a debt, and Santa Clarita wouldn’t be the city it is without her contributions.

“I think now we have a quorum in heaven for the City Council, with Jo Anne, George Pedersen and my dad, and I think they would all still be very happy and proud of the community that they helped create.”

Glo Donnelly, City Formation Committee Co-Chair, 1987:

“I’m known Jo Anne since 1978, and we’ve had a long relationship with her, the city and the county. I was one of the co-chairs of the City Formation Committee and she was incredibly effective in helping us interface with the county during the whole process.

“After that, of course, she became a councilperson, and she was really good not only at her job, but also in her community involvement. She really cared for this community. I considered her not only an involved person but also my friend. And I’m so sorry she’s gone.

“The (Jo Anne Darcy Canyon Country Library) was just such a fitting tribute to her, to be named for her while she was still alive, which was wonderful. She was always involved with the schools. She was instrumental in getting computer labs into the library, and also the expansion of the Canyon Country library. It was a perfect fit for her. It’s just always so heartwarming when somebody who deserves something so much has it come to fruition while they’re still alive. It was a wonderful event for us and obviously a wonderful library.

“She was not only involved with the children, but also the adults, the Senior Center, and the city. obviously, but there were so many other community events and projects she was involved in. She was also a member of Zonta for many years.

“I was super, super proud of everything she was able to accomplish, and she never quit. She was constantly looking and choosing to do things that were good for our community and beneficial to the residents. We’ve missed her the last couple of years because she’s not been around. I know she’s been ill for a few years. But it’s still always a shock when it happens. Now, we’ll miss her even more.”

Dennis Koontz, first Santa Clarita City Council, 1987:

“Jo Anne Darcy absolutely deserves a tribute. She’s always been to my knowledge a straight shooter.

“We were on the first City Council together in 1987, when we first incorporated. She was very helpful to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whom she worked for. She did so much work for the new city of Santa Clarita, and her experience with the county and her boss, who’s one of my favorite people, she was superb with our Board (of Supervisors). She had knowledge of how the county worked and it helped us a lot.

“I know that sometimes people thought that there may be some conflict because she was with the county also, but we found her to be very good to the city of Santa Clarita and very powerful and helped the Council do their job better than if we had done it without her. If she had not been there, I believe our relationship with the county would not have been as good. I’m proud to have known her and wish she was still here.

“Jo Anne was a big part of our decision not to create our own fire department and police department, and to hire the county sheriff’s department and fire department instead. It would have cost the city a lot to put that together, and I give her and the rest of the Board (of Supervisors) credit for those decisions we all agreed on. And we were right. It was the best thing the city of Santa Clarita could ever have done.”

Laurene Weste, Santa Clarita Mayor Pro-Tem:

“We’re talking about 50 years of knowing someone. She’s been in my life forever. First and foremost I would consider her one of the moms of the city, sort of like Connie Worden-Roberts and Glo Donnelly. She was very pivotal in the formation and creation of the city of Santa Clarita and she was a member of our first City Council.

“But Jo Anne goes back to the roots. She was pivotal in all community affairs. Before she was working for Supervisor Mike Antonovich as the Fifth District Supervisor’s deputy, she was the face of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce. Jo Anne had a restaurant in Acton. She was one strong lady. She and (husband) Curt were a dynamic team. They raised their children in our area. She’s a strong little Irish woman, and extremely smart.

“Whether she was doing the Chamber of Commerce or Fifth District Deputy or she was doing City Council, Jo Anne had one goal: how to make her community better. And everybody knew that Jo Anne loved them. Everybody. I don’t care which side of an issue Jo Anne was on. People respected her and knew she cared.

“She was your mom. If you needed help with something, you went to talk to Jo Anne. I don’t care if it was back in the days of the Chamber or when she was working for Antonovich, she just took everything to heart. Everything. She used all her talent to make things better.

“And of course, she had people attack her, too, like all of us do, because if you’re out there doing things you have to take flak. Those things hurt her because her intention was always to make life better, and she did.

Jo Anne Darcy

“I remember that the Chamber of Commerce was holed up in a little office about the size of a closet in Newhall off Lyons Avenue. It had been around a long time but didn’t have a home of its own, a place you could identify with. Being a strong-minded youngster, I thought, ‘Well, the Chamber of Commerce should have a home.’ I was very supportive of the Chamber of Commerce and had my little store.

“Somehow we found out that the phone company had gotten the Boys & Girls Club out of the old Pardee House built in the 1890s, that was sitting where Veterans Historical Plaza is today. The Pardee House was pretty beat up, but we thought it would be perfect for a new home for the Chamber.

“With Jo Anne’s support, I went out fundraising as a volunteer and was part of the team to restore the house. And it was a lot of work. You’re dealing with a house that’s from the 1890s, so everything had to be done, insulation, rewiring, fix glass, fix ceilings that were falling apart.

“I worked on that for almost a year as a volunteer, and stayed up all night the night before Jo Anne moved in. I’d painted all night. She found me asleep on the floor. But she was thrilled. We opened the Chamber of Commerce in late 1977, early 1978. Who kept history then, when we were living it?

“That was the beginning of the Chamber really being the Chamber we know today. She made it grow. She was totally committed. And of course she did that for a while, and it was an iconic place, flags flying outside, signs on the building said ‘Chamber of Commerce.’ It was wonderful. Everybody went there. It was another chapter in the history of the valley because the Pardee House was one of the beginnings of our valley.

“And back in the early ’70s, everybody was trying to do things to help Newhall. Jo Anne helped bring the first redevelopment with (Mike) Antonovich and started it, but didn’t quite get there. It took some time to make it happen, but Jo Anne had that vision more than 40 years ago and shared it with me back then.

“She was all about this valley. She worked very hard and then we became a city and she worked very hard on city formation and giving people support. She felt that having a city was the right thing and she was already the deputy for the Supervisor, she got offered that job, she transitioned into that job, and again, instead of being Mom of the Chamber, she became the mom of the Fifth District and was taking care of everybody.

“She did a great job for Mike Antonovich and helped move forward so many things. She worked strongly with people like Connie Worden and she moved forward the Chamber then she moved forward the city then she ran for City Council.

“She wore two hats, very legitimately. She wore a county hat working for Mike Antonovich, she wore a city had been on our first City Council, she became our Mayor. She really wore only one hat in her heart, and that was for the Santa Clarita Valley.

“From my point of view, Jo Anne never lost sight of doing the right thing for the next generation. She worked on thousands of things, not hundreds, thousands. If I had to talk about Connie (Worden-Roberts), same thing. They were the heart and soul of what made our city great today.

“I know we didn’t get to talk enough about it on our 30th anniversary State of the City because there was just not enough time. But we need to do that now. We need to go back and look. What if Jo Anne hadn’t been here? If Jo Anne and Connie hadn’t been here, I would not be here. Each one was pushing forward for the next generation to do more.

“She used to tell me, ‘You can do more. You think you can’t do more? You can always do more.’

“She was very very strong about taking care of those who needed to be taken care of. I don’t think there was anything in the valley, whether it was a road or a park or a kids’ program or a senior issue…

“She pushed me to go over to the Senior Center and I spent seven years there.

“Jo Anne started our Senior Center. I can remember listening to Jo Anne saying, ‘We have to have a Senior Center. We have to have a place to take care of these people.’ She fought every year for the funding to make sure that the county funding and whatever federal dollars were available, she did everything she could do to make that happen. She helped get it expanded. She helped the remodels. She helped fund-raise.

SCV Senior Center

“She did everything she could do to take care of the kids, the elderly, the business community, parks, veterans…how much can I say? Let’s give her a halo. Jo Anne was wonderful, and I’m so sorry that we didn’t get an opportunity in the last few years to be able to say all these things so she could hear them.

“When she retired, we did everything we could do to tell her how much we loved and appreciated her for everything she had done, and she would always say, ‘I didn’t do that much.’ Oh, yes, she did.

“And you can’t know until you start looking at the record, the number of positives that woman did for the Santa Clarita Valley. I’m so honored that not only did I know her, I’ve also spent my life around her and her family, got to work with her, with her daughter Joleen, her husband Curt, got to hear her story and got trained. And got chewed out occasionally. ‘No, you do it this way.’

“She was a great teacher. She’d say, ‘Stay close and learn.’ And I did.”

Bob Kellar, Santa Clarita City Councilman:

“I’m sad over the loss of Jo Anne. As I reflect back over the last three decades, I cannot begin to express my admiration for her and all that she has done for the Santa Clarita Valley.

“In not only her role as a former city councilwoman and mayor but also in her work with Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office, she absolutely was a shining star for the development and the success of the Santa Clarita Valley. That woman she just loved this town and was such a hard worker.

“On a personal note, my involvement today with the city of Santa Clarita in a major way is the result of my friendship with and appreciation for Jo Anne Darcy. She called me in 1997, and she was mayor that year, and asked me if I would consider filling a position as a planning commissioner for the city. After sleeping on it for one night, I called her the next day and accepted her offer.

“That was the start of my activity from a City Hall perspective with the city. All of my previous activity had been within the philanthropic arena, working with various charities. So I consider Jo Anne a major part of where Bob Kellar has found himself today in working with the city of Santa Clarita, and I’m so appreciative of the opportunity.”

Jo Anne Darcy presented a plaque from the city of Santa Clarita to College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook commemorating COC’s 30th anniversary in 1999.

Dr. Dianne Van Hook, College of the Canyons Chancellor:
“Jo Anne Darcy was one of the first community leaders I met when I came to College of the Canyons in 1988, and she was instrumental in helping me feel right at home. I remember feeling an instant kinship with Jo Anne – a strong, visionary woman with a huge heart, who was a true pioneer in our community.

“She worked tirelessly and passionately for this community, for the movement to create the City of Santa Clarita, and for many non–profit organizations that make a real difference in people’s lives. In so many ways, she embodied the spirit of the community; she was Santa Clarita.

“Jo Anne was a remarkable woman who accomplished so much for others. I feel so very fortunate that our paths crossed when they did – and for the privilege of having known her.”

Frank Ferry, former Santa Clarita City Councilman and Mayor:

“I was actually talking about Jo Anne Thursday at the State of the City, with (former City Council members) Buck McKeon, Laurie Ender, (Carl) Boyer and Dennis Koontz. We were sharing Jo Anne stories. When I got the call (Monday) morning, it just saddened me, because she was by far just one of the beautiful, giving people I ever met in my life. Jo Anne truly was like a mentor not only for me as a councilman but also as a person. I loved the woman.

“She’s been in pain and suffering for years. I know Jo Anne believes in God and I know she’s in a better place and out of pain. In that aspect, I’m happy for her.

“Her accomplishments were many, but one thing I always admired about her is that by far, in the last 30 years, she has been the best council member for constituent services. Jo Anne would spend countless hours handwriting notes to citizens, she was on the phone, answering emails. As council members, we would easily get 100-plus emails a week and Jo Anne made it a point for every single request to be answered and followed up. I told her, ‘I don’t know how you do that.’ But it was just something innate in her.

“When she served people she was going to follow through and make sure that she did everything she could do to help them. And I just admired that. It was an awesome quality in an elected official. Today, every elected official has a staff that does that for them. Even on the council, so many of us will hand over a letter or email to our secretary or staff members and ask them to respond. She didn’t do that. She had her personal stationery and she wrote the card or made the call.

“And there isn’t a park, a road, the sheriff – there isn’t anything in Santa Clarita that you can’t trace back to Jo Anne.

“The one thing she did that was most critical was when we became a city 30 years ago. We basically annexed away from the County of Los Angeles, and throughout our 30-year history, there has always been a tenuous relationship between the city and the county.

“Jo Anne for many years worked for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and many of the partnerships the city has with the county on open space, or sheriff’s or fire or parks – if it wasn’t for Jo Anne’s personal relationship with Supervisor Antonovich, that relationship between the city and county probably would have been severed or worsened. She was always able to walk a tightrope between holding the position with Mike and being with the city as a mayor and council member. And she was always able to keep everyone’s head level and straight on what the big picture was when many people wanted to go to battle and fight.

“People might not remember that, or think it’s such a big deal, but ultimately today so much of what we enjoy in this valley is the result of the city and county working together because Jo Anne held it together.”

At the groundbreaking of the Cross Valley Connector, Golden Valley Road segment in 2007 are (from left): Patty Kelly, Larry Rasmussen, Rick Winsman, Millie Jones, Jo Anne Darcy, Dr. Keith Richman, Frank Ferry, Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar, Cameron Smyth and Phil Ellis.

Don Kimball, SCV Committee on Aging, Emeritus Board Member (Active 1988-2015):

“So sad to hear about Jo Anne. I can’t even imagine. I’ve known her for many, many years.

“I was on the Committee on Aging board for 27 years, president at least three times, and in executive leadership positions the entire time. Over that period of time obviously we worked a lot with Jo Anne. At one point she was even on our Board of Directors.

“She dedicated a huge portion of her life making the Santa Clarita Valley great, also the city of Santa Clarita great. She was so instrumental in working with the county to begin with and then so instrumental in forming the city and making this community be a great community for all of us and for us to enjoy today.

“And I think about it for my family — I have kids and now I have grandkids — for future generations to continue to to enjoy because most of them continue to live here locally with their families now, too.

“But for me the most personally touching were the times we worked together on Senior Center-related issues. Jo Anne was steadfastly supportive of the Senior Center, its mission and helping seniors every step of the way. She raised a lot of money over those years to help seniors. She was recognized one year as ‘Outstanding Woman of the Year’ for the Senior Center for all of her efforts.

“Probably my fondest memory of working with Jo Anne was doing the benefit wine auctions at Le Chene for the Senior Center. She was a driving force behind the benefit wine auction. In fact, she either chaired or co-chaired it or chaired the silent action. We did that maybe 14 or 15 years.

“She was such an important force behind the Senior Center but in her typical Jo Anne way. She was the nicest person you could ever meet but absolutely committed and hard-working and dedicated. You get into issues, heated moments, but I honestly can’t remember Jo Anne ever raising her voice.

“There are people who talk about doing things, and people who roll up their sleeves and get things done. Jo Anne was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-things-done kind of person, which I really admired about her. She would just dig in and help wherever you needed help. She always remained absolutely calm. At the same time, she was getting things done. I called her a Soft-spoken Wonderwoman.

“At the end of the day we’re all going to pass on at some point, but if you can leave this Earth a little bit better place than you found it, you probably did a pretty good job. And I think that’s exactly what Jo Anne did.

“And it was never about Jo Anne. She didn’t want any of the attention. She just wanted to make things better, and preferred not to be in the limelight. Ironically, over the years, she won all kinds of awards, but for her, it always was about the community.

“So hats off to Jo Anne. Great lady. She really was a special person, a great lady. I have a lot of admiration for her. Everyone’s going to miss her.”

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