By Carl Kanowsky
This week, our town lost a true champion, a man who put the needs of others ahead of his own. Mayor, city councilman, Hart district superintendent, Boys & Girls Club of SCV president, SCV Man of the Year, and Dr. Clyde Smyth (U.S. Army, ret.) died on Sunday following a massive stroke.
Smyth was a prime example of a government official creating opportunities for businesses to prosper, understanding and addressing the needs of community residents and offering those less fortunate compassionate solutions to their woes.
Savvy businesspeople know that having strong, positive relationships with their elected officials can prove crucial to their success. Sometimes, being an attorney doesn’t just mean fighting in court or negotiating contracts. Sometimes, it includes realizing that satisfying a client’s needs can be accomplished by talking with a receptive council person. I found Smyth to be that official.
When my wife, Terry, and I came to Santa Clarita, one of the first local issues we faced was Whittaker-Bermite and the proposed Porta Bella plan. We and a number of our neighbors petitioned the Planning Commission to listen to our worries, but that mainly fell on deaf ears. So, we went to the City Council.
Smyth was serving on the council when the whole Porta Bella mess came before it. We found Smyth willing to discuss the issues with plain citizens, folks whose only claim was that they lived in the city he represented.
We didn’t have high-powered lobbyists or public relations people. But that didn’t matter to Smyth. He would still talk to us.
I remember him coming to our house to go over some of our concerns. He drove up in his fancy white Corvette. Boy, was he styling. He talked about how he’d given up sexy cars while he was a superintendent and putting kids through school, but that he was going to drive his dream car.
We continued to work with Smyth on the Porta Bella issue for almost a full year. He always took our calls and always listened. And his votes reflected that he shared our concern. It’s because of him and the other courageous members of the council that real progress is being made in cleaning that heavily contaminated site.
Smyth also was very responsive when I came to him with some local businesspeople. They explained to him how certain aspects of the Porta Bella development would take away businesses they had spent their whole lives developing. Smyth was a major factor in protecting those folks. Again, he proved that he listened and that he cared.
The next time I ran into Smyth was when I joined the board of the Boys & Girls Club. I remember several times when the board would be considering an important decision, we would not vote until we heard how Smyth felt. He gave us the benefit of his wisdom, his insight into the local political and social scene and his dedication to the welfare of the kids at the club.
Smyth was also a dutiful husband. Terry and Smyth’s bride, Sue, have worked together for years on the Henry Mayo Home Tour League, where they both served as president.
Whenever I would go to a Home Tour function, I would see Smyth, being supportive of Sue. And, as proof of his love for her, he would always be in the background, letting Sue have the spotlight.
Our paths crossed again when my office was in the same building as Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon’s. Smyth worked with McKeon in selecting the candidates for the military academies. I would see Smyth coming or going to McKeon’s office and we’d talk for a bit. He was always excited about the high school kids he was interviewing and was thrilled to be able to give them an opportunity at a first-class education.
Smyth is a local legend. Proof of that is that even though he’s gone what he’s done continues in 1) the excellent Hart district he administered; 2) the wise votes he cast as a council member; 3) all of the kids he helped at the Boys & Girls Club and through McKeon’s academy appointments; and, 4) most importantly, the quality of the people he leaves behind in Sue, Colin and Cameron.
Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at [email protected] Mr. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. It’s The Law appears Fridays and rotates between members of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association. www.SCVbar.org. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.