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UPDATE: McKeon talks to Signal about his retirement

Posted: January 16, 2014 5:31 a.m.
Updated: January 16, 2014 5:31 a.m.

This 1987 Signal file photo shows the first Santa Clarita City Council reviewing a scrapbook of events leading to city formation. Standing from left are Jo Anne Darcy, Carl Boyer, Dennis Koontz and Howard "Buck" Mckeon. Seated with the book is Jan Heidt.

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Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, a mainstay on the Santa Clarita Valley political stage for more than three decades, including a stint as Santa Clarita’s mayor, has decided to retire from the Congressional seat he was first elected to in 1992.

McKeon confirmed his intentions to The Signal during an interview.

“I will continue to serve out my term and my time as chairman of the (House) Armed Services Committee, but the time has come for me to step aside,” McKeon said.

Local impacts

McKeon said he thinks one of his major accomplishments during his time in Congress was his work to help halt development of a massive proposed landfill in Elsmere Canyon.

Another issue he remembered was the cross-valley connector — a road that provides a direct route from Highway 14 to the interchange of Interstate 5 and Highway 126.

McKeon said when he moved into his first home in the Santa Clarita Valley, he was told the cross-valley connector was about a year away from being built. That was in 1964.

In reality, the connector would be completed in 2010, with the help of millions of dollars of federal funds McKeon secured.

“So to be able to get money to help complete that for the city and for the valley was very, very important and very meaningful,” McKeon said. “And I was very happy to help do that.”

One of the longest-running sagas during McKeon’s tenure is that of the Cemex mine in Soledad Canyon.

McKeon has introduced a series of bills in Congress to stop the mine in its tracks, but each has failed to make much progress.

McKeon’s decision to retire comes in the midst of what some say represents the best chance to stop the mine legislatively — a bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would use the proceeds of federal lands near Victorville to compensate Cemex for the value of its contracts.

McKeon has said he supports that bill and spoke at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing in support of the bill.

He also said he was proud that he was able to pull in federal dollars to help with local rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The 20th anniversary of that disaster is this Friday.

“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to be able to help during very trying times,” he said.

Congress

Before he was elected to congress, McKeon held local office in the Santa Clarita Valley. From 1978 to 1987, McKeon served on the governing board for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

In 1987, citizens voted to incorporate the city of Santa Clarita and at the same time elected McKeon as part of the first-ever City Council.

The councilmembers would officially take their seats that December. McKeon would later serve as the first mayor in city history.

He was elected to his first congressional term in 1992.

McKeon has won re-election every two years since.

“When I was elected, I thought I would probably be doing this for maybe 10 years,” McKeon said. “The time has gone by very quickly.”

Prior to 1992, portions of the Santa Clarita Valley were split across different congressional districts. But the creation of the 25th Congressional District united the Santa Clarita Valley and combined it with other areas, including the Antelope Valley to create a new representative area ahead of the 1992 election.

In an interview with The Signal following his victory in November 1992, McKeon said he hoped to be a cooperative force in Congress.

“I think people are tired of partisan politics. The want to see us work together,” McKeon said at the time. “I need to work with everybody to do the best job I can for our district.”

Biography

McKeon was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 9, 1938, and grew up in Tujunga.

After graduating from Verdugo Hills High School in 1956, McKeon left for a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon returning from his mission, he enrolled at Brigham Young University.

McKeon later decided to take a break from his studies, instead marrying his wife, Patricia, and starting a family. It was during this same period that he began his business career in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Future

But just because he is retiring doesn’t mean McKeon plans to go softly into that good night. After all, he still has almost a year left to serve on his term and some major issues, like Cemex, to work on.

“I’ve got a year ahead of me that’s going to be very important,” he said.

Lmoney@signalscv.com

661-287-5525

On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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