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City honors its founding members

Santa Clarita’s living historical figures pass on their stories

Posted: October 19, 2009 10:59 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Members of the original Santa Clarita City Council in December 1987 - from left, Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, Dennis Koontz, Jo Anne Darcy and Carl Boyer - each give an oral account of how the Council was first established. The founders were honored at a dedication ceremony at Veteran's Historical Plaza on Monday.

 

Linda Storli walked with her granddaughter in front of the Veterans Historical Park in Newhall.

She pointed to a brick on the ground that bore her name, along with her husband's, beneath an inscription that labeled them as some of Santa Clarita's founding civic leaders.

"See there, that's grandma's brick and there's papa's brick," said Storli, Santa Clarita's first parks commissioner, whose husband, Dennis Koontz, was a member of the founding City Council.

The couple was among 15 founding city officials honored with bricks bearing their names Monday. The move was part of the city's effort to record the early history of the city, which was founded in 1987.

The Veterans Historical Park honors those who served in the military, but also has bricks reserved to recognize donors and other important figures, city officials said.

On hand for the dedication was the city's first mayor, U.S. Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, who reminisced with his former colleagues about the early struggles of laying the foundation for Santa Clarita.

"In Washington, people at home don't know what you're doing," McKeon said. "On City Council, people hear about everything."

After a series of speeches, the city's founders sat and discussed early cityhood. The conversation was recorded and will be compiled to make an oral history of the city's formative years.

Santa Clarita's first planning commissioner, Rita Garasi, remembered the hectic days following the city's incorporation. The day after the city voted to become incorporated, the valley was hit with an unusually heavy snow.

"People opposed to incorporation said it would be the end of Western civilization," Garasi said. "The very next day we had to find snow plows to clear out the valley."

Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste, who emceed the event, said the brick memorial and oral histories will serve as important teaching tools for anybody interested in the city's history, and will provide a firsthand narrative of the difficulties the council faced in the years before and after becoming an incorporated city.

"I think it's critical to pass on the human history of the city," she said, "to put a face on this unique and special time."

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