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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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.
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Checksum: Posted: January 17, 2014 6:40 a.m.

Buck's last big accomplishment was rewriting the history of his "accomplishments."

itzreality: Posted: January 17, 2014 7:08 a.m.

Maybe now we can get an elected official in that is not on the lobbyists and big corporates payroll! Hopefully his replacement (long over due) will do something for the folks that elected whom ever! Bye Bye Buckie, no tears here!

TruthSquad: Posted: January 17, 2014 7:37 a.m.

Fact: Barbara Boxer inserted the amendment to stop Elsmere Canyon. Fact: Barbara Boxer secured more money than Buck for the Cross Valley Connector. Fact: Buck has made no attempt to stop the CEMEX mega-mine. In 14 years how's never even had a committee vote on a bill and now a days he doesn't even bother to introduce one. I'm sure he's looking forward to his retirement in Utah will he'll be able to breath clean air.

BBennetts: Posted: January 17, 2014 8:34 a.m.

Wow, a lot was glossed over. Twenty two years in congress and he lists getting federal funds for a road and stopping a landfill as his accomplishments.

Twenty two years and he failed to do anything about Cemex. He sure blew a lot of smoke. Remember the 'Thank You Buck' banners our city put up around town? That never panned out.

How about a mention of all the military programs he fought for that the military did not want? I recall a General being interviewed on CNN saying they did not want or need more tanks and Buck being interviewed on CNN saying that it was essential that they build more tanks (the tank manufacturer contributed heavily to Bucks campaign fund). You never read about that in the local press.

What about his wife Patricia serving as a campaign fund manager for Buck? She was paid a salary from campaign funds that was the highest salary for someone in this position in all of congress. A clever way to turn campaign contributions into household income.

And no mention of Howard and Phils Western Wear, the store Buck ran into the ground and bankrupted?

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: January 17, 2014 8:45 a.m.

I think announcing his retirement is his biggest accomplishment yet... can't think of much else he's done.

timothymyers02: Posted: January 17, 2014 8:56 a.m.


Let's be fair. Howard and Phil's was a fine and successful lifestyle business when it had one location and supported the two McKeon's and their several children, but it could not be grown into a large enough business to support the families of those children when they achieved adulthood in a similar manner. This is not an uncommon story.

I also know for a fact that the Congressman personally guaranteed some of the obligations of the business when they were in their death spiral, and repaid those in full.

cj64: Posted: January 17, 2014 9:04 a.m.

CEMEX Mine is coming soon. The developments are starting off the 126, and will continue all the way to Ventura. The wealthy landowners have the water they need, thanks to the members of the LA Sanitation Board (Antonovich, Kellar, Weste and McLean). The developers will need concrete, and alot of concrete. The BLM has stated that the Cemex Mine is needed by LA and Ventura County for development. Bucky and the Santa Clarita Council have been around for 20 years trying to STOP THE MINE! But nothing final was ever achieved.

timothymyers02: Posted: January 17, 2014 9:26 a.m.


The City has spent about $28 million, basically in legal fees, to delay the opening of the mine which was scheduled to happen circa 1998, so basically about $1.7 million per year for air without dust. Unfortunately it appears that they have run out of legal options so whatever happens will happen.

cj64: Posted: January 17, 2014 10:24 a.m.

The dupes, Buck and the City Council, have been around to provide lip service for their support of the issues in Santa Clarita. The chloride salt limit has been around since the 1990s, and is a hot issue today because Newhall Ranch needs water and the dupes found a way that we pay for it. THE CHLORIDE TAX SCAM.
The mine has also been around since the 1990s. In order to appear like they are for the peoples interests, the dupes "fought" a mine that, at the time, was not needed. Now because of Newhall Ranch, the mine is needed, will go through, and the dupes will say "we tried".

CastaicClay: Posted: January 17, 2014 10:28 a.m.

Buck lobbied against the original CVC being built by what is now Caltrans. The Sierra Highway on/off ramps were built for it but the rest was never completed. Buck and the local officials of the time wanted to keep traffic on Soledad Cyn.

Checksum: Posted: January 17, 2014 11:24 a.m.

tomothymyers02 -- I've read many stories about how the McKeon store stiffed their employees for their final paychecks but never one that says they were paid. Can you cite a source for your claim, please?

Carlitos: Posted: January 17, 2014 11:30 a.m.

Even in retirement this windbag can't shut up. I bet his urn of ashes will have a PA system.

timothymyers02: Posted: January 17, 2014 11:43 a.m.


The employees as unsecured creditors were indeed stiffed but that is what happens in a bankruptcy. I was referencing the fact that certain suppliers while they were struggling to stay open required personal guarantees of the principals, which Buck fulfilled.

Businesses fail for all kinds of reasons which is why we have bankruptcy rules so the folks that took a chance to start a business can discharge the debts and have a fresh start, and not be ruined for the rest of their lives.

timothymyers02: Posted: January 17, 2014 11:54 a.m.


Having personally known all of the elected City Council members over the last 18 years they are certainly no perfect but I can state with confidence that they were fully committed to stopping the CEMEX mine.

cj64: Posted: January 18, 2014 10:02 p.m.

Should we take your word that the city council over the last 18 years has represented its citizens?

I think not. The City and City Council seem to represent Big Business and Developers. Small business and citizens needs are an afterthought. Their "fully committed" effort involved spending taxpayer money on multiple trips to Washington DC, eating at fine restaurants, and staying at first class hotels.

They must have gone there at least 20 times without achieving anything!
Cemex will be starting soon. Thank you buck!

ricketzz: Posted: January 18, 2014 6:22 a.m.

Nobody had color film in 1987? Tri-X Pan? Didn't know the guy had a genuine smile. Looks happy anyway.

Checksum: Posted: January 20, 2014 8:12 a.m.

This Sig is featuring this story for it's 4th day now. What do they owe him for?

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