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McKeon gives a look back

After retirement announcement, legislator talks with The Signal about his career of public service

Posted: January 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.

In this 1987 photo, Howard "Buck" McKeon celebrates at a party after being elected to the Santa Clarita City Council.

 

Among his major accomplishments during 11 terms in Congress are successfully blocking a massive landfill planned for the Santa Clarita Valley and securing funds for construction of the cross-valley connector, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon. R-Santa Clarita, said in an interview with The Signal.

McKeon, who officially announced Thursday he will retire at the end of his current term this year, 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.”

McKeon also cited his success at blocking a planned dump in Elsmere Canyon by sliding land-protection legislation into an omnibus land use bill in the House.

McKeon was working with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who introduced the same protective legislation into the Senate version of the bill.

Cemex

But the Santa Clarita Valley congressman was less successful at finding a permanent solution to protect Soledad Canyon from a mega-mine proposed by the cement-producing firm Cemex.

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 yet to stop the mine legislatively — a bill introduced by Boxer that would use the proceeds from the sale 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 favor of it.

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 today.

“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.

McKeon would later serve as the first mayor in city history. He was elected to his first congressional term in 1992.
“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.”

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, he 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.

Later taking a break from his studies, McKeon married his wife, Patricia, and started a family. It was during this same period that he began his business career in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Future

Just because he is retiring doesn’t mean McKeon plans to go out with a whimper. 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,” said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
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@LukeMMoney

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