Newly minted Mayor Cameron Smyth grew up in the Santa Clarita Valley and has zeroed in on a vision for the community in which his toddler son will grow up.
Smyth, 33, neatly segues into the median age of Santa Clarita residents, which is 34.
“The majority of people in Santa Clarita are parents who have young kids,” he said last week. “Having a son who (will go) to local schools and (who will) participate in park and recreation programs gives me a real perspective of what’s going on in the city.”
Thirteen-month-old Gavin gazed around the council chambers from a secure perch in his mother Lena’s arms, as she stood by Smyth taking the mayoral oath Tuesday night.
Smyth said he envisions a future in which the city will wield smart growth as a tool to realize its economic potential and assure its small town feel.
Annexation could catapult the population of Santa Clarita, the fourth largest city in Los Angeles County, past the population of Glendale, which is ranked number 3. The new mayor supports annexation when both parties endorse it.
Smyth was a member of the city’s community outreach and education effort in Stonecrest in regard to the community’s future annexation, which is expected to be filed this year. Most residents seemed supportive of becoming part of the city, he said.
Businesses in the Valencia Commerce Center approached the city about the center’s annexation, which they expected to “benefit their bottom dollar,” he said.
Smyth said while it would be a benefit for the Santa Clarita Valley to encompass one city, he acknowledges the view is not held universally.
“(We) are not going to force cityhood on anybody,” he said. “If the residents of Stevenson Ranch would want to be part of the city, (we) would welcome them with open arms. If they choose not to, (that would be) fine as well.”
“I believe it is a benefit to be a part of the city of Santa Clarita,” he said. “It is a benefit for the valley to be one city. However, I believe 100 percent in self-determination and I am not going to force cityhood on anybody.”
Smyth said the city must continue to address many valleywide issues – including the proposed Cemex mega mine and Las Lomas development – that affect people in the unincorporated areas as much as they affect city residents, he said.
The Las Lomas development called for about 555 acres to be developed into a dense, multi-use project that would require extensive grading and the removal of about 3,000 oak trees.
“Nothing has been finalized yet,” he said. “We have developed a very good relationship with council members in the city of Los Angeles. … I think we can put something together that can stop this project.”
Smart growth arises from strategic planning, he said.
Prior to the last year, Smyth was among the throng of commuters crawling home on the freeway. He sees the city’s three business parks as a source of more than 20,000 jobs “with zero homes.”
“That’s how you get people off the freeways without adding homes,” he said.
The new mayor was circumspect about the city’s handling of its “Shop Santa Clarita” campaign, and the ire it raised among residents and business owners in Stevenson Ranch.
“The city should have probably done a better job of educating the unincorporated areas about the (program),” he said.
He pointed out that spending money within city boundaries enriches the residents of the entire valley, because of its myriad of programs and services, including parks and recreation programs and essential services.
“Residents of Stevenson Ranch see a greater return on their dollars spent in the city of Santa Clarita than in the Valencia Marketplace,” he said. “We should have done a better job explaining that.”
Smyth has reached out to members of the West Ranch and Stevenson Ranch town councils, he said.
The mayor’s pet project will be the Healthy Santa Clarita program, which, among other things, combats childhood obesity.
The role of health promoter seems tailor-made, as sports have played a large role in his life. He was an all-league wide receiver at Hart High School and an all-CIF volleyball player. He went on to play both sports in college.
The city will dip into its natural resources – Olympic, professional and collegiate athletes – who will serve as role models for students in promoting the program.
Switching gears to weigh in on the issue of siting a homeless shelter in the valley, Smyth said every year he has served on the council he has voted in support of a temporary winter shelter.
“I’ve never opposed the siting of a temporary shelter in Santa Clarita as long as a site is found that is amenable to the neighbors and fits the needs of the homeless population,” he said. “There is concern amongst the council (about) a full-time year-round shelter. Look at cities like Santa Monica. Even city officials there realize that has had major impacts on the city.”
He said he continues to support a temporary winter shelter, but a “full-time year-round shelter is something I would be concerned about.”
Smyth, who had worked as late state Sen. “Pete” Knight’s campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, hedged about what politics may hold for him beyond his council term, saying it is too early to decide whether a third term might be in his future. The 38th Assembly District seat being vacated by Keith Richman because of term limits is something that “we are looking at as well,” Smyth said. He has been approached as a possible candidate and said he will consider that as a possibility in the near future.
He currently works as the West Coast public affairs manager for Shell Oil Products.