"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Multimedia Editor Leon Worden. The program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
Signal: You've both chaired the SCV Chamber of Commerce. You've both been city commissioners. You both serve on the Mentryville preservation board. You volunteer everywhere. At what point did you guys become joined at the hip?
Harte: Well, I think, we both joined the chamber of commerce about the same time, and it kind of ballooned from there.
Winsman: I think it goes back, gosh, almost 11 years ago. ... We became involved in the chamber (as) ambassadors, and we just saw that as an opportunity to become more involved in the community and I took his lead on some things, and he took my lead on others, and it just kind of went topsy from there.
Signal: For you, Rick, this is sort of an exit interview. You're leaving us for Washington State.
Winsman: (Laughing) Yeah, I've had it with the folks here, so I'm leaving.
Signal: The last couple of years, lots of people have speculated, will it be Rick Winsman or Duane Harte or both who run for City Council in '06? Rick, why did you decide not to stick around and run?
Winsman: That's a good question, and that's one if you had asked me five years ago, I would have been considering it in '06. But truth be known, this town has grown topsy. It's grown quite fast. It's getting bigger. It costs more to run for political office after having (managed) two campaigns for City Council in this town in particular, it's just a tremendous amount of strain on resources, both financial and time, and even my involvement with the Planning Commission in the last five years, it's had an effect on my business.
It can't help but have an effect. The time that it takes to adequately do the job and do the work takes away your ability to do business, and I just could not see my way clear to make that kind of commitment that would be required to be a council member in this town.
Signal: Duane, you ran for City Council in 2002
Signal: And now in '06, Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Frank Ferry's seats will be up, and they'll probably run again. Will you run against them?
Harte: You know, I haven't even really given it a thought, at the moment. Like Rick, I'm involved with so many different things, and I have my own business to run and it does. It takes a lot of time to do all of that. To add another thing and do it right, it's going to take away from something else. So it's something that is going to take a lot of thought.
Signal: How long have you been in this community?
Harte: Since 1974.
Signal: So you're on your way to becoming an old-timer.
Harte: I don't think I'm considered to be a newbie anymore.
Signal: Your business, Academy Addressing and Mailing that's a mail house in the San Fernando Valley?
Harte: That's correct.
Signal: Why did you decide to become involved in the chamber of commerce where you live, instead of where you work?
Harte: That's an easy one. I was involved in a number of different chambers in the San Fernando Valley. But every time I went to a meeting or something, my wife was out here, and I could never get her involved with what I was doing. So I decided I'd join the chamber out here and see what this chamber had to offer, and I found out our chamber is much better than any other. It made it to where both of us could enjoy our company together and do all the same things.
Signal: Rick, you and your wife are the folks who make trophies, so it makes sense you'd be involved in the chamber. But what did you do before that?
Winsman: At what particular point in time? The thumbnail sketch is, I was born in upstate New York, in the Adirondacks. Grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but mostly in Iowa. Went to school in Iowa, met my wife in Iowa. But since then, we've (lived) in Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C.; then out here to the Los Angeles area.
What took to me to all those places is that after a student as a engineer, I finally woke up one morning and said, "What the heck am I doing?" And I decided to do the right thing and get into a good profession. I became a politician. I became a federal lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, which took me to Chicago, Houston, Washington and to out here.
Eighteen months after we moved out here, the organization went through one of its corporate downsizings. One of those austerity cutbacks.
Signal: The manufacturing went to China, so there was no more need for an association.
Winsman: It was being outsourced. But they wanted me to move back to Washington. And four years there were quite frankly enough. I didn't want to do remedial Washington. So I elected to stay out here and using my engineering background, found a niche that was not being filled in the area of engraving industrial plates and control panels. That was the genesis that Saratoga Engraving was born under.
Signal: Why Santa Clarita in particular?
Winsman: When we moved out here in '86, our offices were out in North Hollywood, and coming from an area of the country where the real-estate is half the cost as out here in California, I tried to find a place as close as North Hollywood as I could. This was as close to North Hollywood as we could get and still afford housing. So here we are.
It was, at the time, in 1986, a great community. Probably about 80,000 to 90,000 people. Bouquet Canyon was still two lanes out past Saugus High School. But it was growing and had a lot of potential, and it had, at that time, a quality of life that we were looking for.
And it's proven itself to be correct in that quality of life we've enjoyed it a lot. It's been that type of quality I've tried to give back to the community that provided my wife and me with a place to raise our kids, to ultimately start and grow a business, and we have very mixed feelings on leaving, I can assure you.
Signal: Both of your wives are active in the community, too; Pauline (Duane's wife) has been involved in the fight against the Cemex mining project and Dee (Rick's wife) is involved with business and community organizations. You probably haven't had much impact on them, but what kind of influence have they had on you?
Harte: Well, I must say that most everything I do is because of Pauline. She's got me into a lot of different things that I totally enjoyed, and just to keep us both going. Of course, now that the kids are grown and out of the house ,we have time to enjoy all the different stuff that we do.
Winsman: I think Dee, from my standpoint, has served as my political compass although philosophically we're probably pretty in tune. We come from similar backgrounds, very similar lifestyles. But she'll play the devil's advocate. When I'm thinking about a position on an issue or, as a planning commissioner, on a project, she'll just make sure those arguments in my mind are all thoroughly played out, so that when I ultimately come to a decision, it's well thought out and it's the right decision as far as, I'm not missing anything. So she has provided that direction, kind of a compass to me.
Signal: Duane, you're probably one of the hardest working volunteers around. You're on the Veterans Memorial Committee and the Friends of Mentryville and the city's Newhall Redevelopment Committee what's your passion nowadays?
Harte: I think my passion is still one of the first things I got involved with out here, which was Mentryville. The history of Santa Clarita has become a great passion with me. Now I'm on the Historical Society board, and I enjoy doing that, just to make sure that history stays alive here in Santa Clarita.
Signal: Rick, you're involved in Mentryville also. What is Mentryville and why is our history important?
Winsman: Mentryville is from a California perspective, a Western states perspective it was the first successful commercial oil town west of Pennsylvania. As such, it holds significance in that it also holds the world's record, the Guinness Book of World Records, for the longest-producing oil well in the world. Pico No. 4. It was 100 and I forget how many years
Harte: 114 years.
Winsman: 114 years' continuous production. And I think it's important because the oil industry has become such an important facet of California's economy, that to have our valley, our little valley, out at the end of Pico Canyon (Road), to have been the genesis of that industry here in the West, it's just phenomenal.
It's significant, and to have it basically abandoned for so long and kind of shielded and hidden from the pubic, it really needs to come out and have its place known.
Harte: What's amazing about Mentryville is the number of people who keep moving into the valley and even the ones who have been here for years they come up to me all the time and say: What is (or) where is Mentryville? I live in Stevenson Ranch or I live in Pico Canyon somewhere, I don't know where it is.
It's right down the road from you folks. It's something that's been a hidden treasure forever, and unfortunately with the rains and the fires, we've had some damage out there, but at least the buildings are safe.
Winsman: Ideally, if I could answer that, I think this is a master plan of the community that we'd like to see. We'd like to see the city take that (Mentryville) over, we'd like to see the city agree to manage or to take over that part from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
And why would we want to do that? Well, because it would fit in perfectly with the type of historical tapestry that we're trying to weave for the whole, entire city to have that available for the residents of Santa Clarita on a regular basis, much more so than I think (it is) through the conservancy. I think would be a benefit to the people, it would be a benefit to the city, and it would be a benefit to the preservation of Mentryville.
Signal: You're both involved in historic preservation, and Duane, you've been on the Parks Commission. But then you've both chaired the chamber of commerce. Some people probably think of those things as being mutually exclusive. One deals with environmental issues and preserving the past; the other is about business and progress. How do you see those things working together?
Harte: Personally, as a businessperson people come here to Santa Clarita for one reason or another. They come to visit people, they come to visit the sites, or they come for business. If somebody comes here for business, it's a good chance they may have time to see the sites and see the different things we have in Mentryville, as far as our past is concerned.
It can work well together, I believe. We don't have to create a business atmosphere in all of our historic sites, but it does happen, and when it does happen, we make sure the business does not ruin the historic part.
Winsman: I agree totally. I think that from a business perspective, we have to know where we've been, to try to realize where we are now, and build on that, to figure out where we're going to go. So (they're) not mutually exclusive. Our historical past is intrinsically linked to our future.
I think it's extremely important that we take a look and see what lessons we can learn. The old Will Rogers axiom The only thing that man learns from the past is that man doesn't learn from the past we're moving at such a fast pace out here, we don't have the luxury NOT to remember where we come from in determining where we will go. From that perspective, we (have) a rather new history in this part of the country.
I come from a part of the country where, if your building is not 300 years old, it's brand new. So when you're dealing with a rather recent history, it's even more important to preserve that, because it has the tendency to not have that significance of being historical until it does reach that age. So it's very important we realize that and incorporate that in our future plans.
Signal: As a planning commissioner, Rick, you had an opportunity to vote on a number of things infill projects and developments like the Gate-King Industrial Park and Newhall Land's Riverpark project. More, such as the Synergy project, are on the way. At the same time you're preserving history, you're perceived as a pro-growth person. Is that accurate? And how would you say the city is doing in terms of managing its growth?
Winsman: Well, you're right in the sense that if you can say that it's pro-growth the old saying, "If you ain't growing you're dying" applies to communities just as well as it does to anything else.
We have to be looking toward the future. We have a tremendous amount of infill population that needs housing here, that we have to provide. We're getting to the point, quite honestly, we're finiting-out our resources. We're coming to the point where we're building out to our city limits. The only way we'll be able to get new raw land to develop is through annexation, or through joint development approval annexation projects.
It's difficult to take a look at a lot of these projects and to say, "This is the greatest project I've ever seen." But at the same time, I think what we have to do is realize that growth is going to come. To be able to balance the property owner's right to use his property as he's legally entitled to, but at the same time be able to extract the best possible development we possibly can, both visually and through amenities, that we can, of that development. That's the best we can afford to do.
We don't have the luxury sitting down and saying, "Well, jeez, we just can't have any more building and any more development in this community." That just doesn't work. So we have to run that fine line between what's right and what's best.
I think we've done a really good job. Newhall Land as much as they get accused of being the destructor of hills and trees and flora and fauna started with a master plan, a vision of this community in the 1960s, and have done a pretty good job of (seeing) it all the way through. They're just about done now with this community, so
Signal: With Newhall Ranch still to go.
Winsman: With Newhall Ranch to go, absolutely; that's another 20- to 30-year project. That will have a significant influence on us, but that's a topic, I'm sure, for a different time.
I think the city has done a pretty darned good job. I'm proud of the five years I spent as a planning commissioner, and I'm proud of the work that this Planning Commission has done. I trust that type of integrity and that type of thorough evaluation will continue after I leave.
Signal: Duane, as a former parks commissioner, how is the city doing in terms of preserving open space and providing recreational opportunities?
Harte: You take a look at some of the opportunities that are available outside the city that are extremely limited, then you come in and look at our facilities the Sports and Aquatic Center, Central Park, all the other new parks we've built over the last few years. We're still behind if you look at how many acres there should be for 1,000 people, Santa Clarita still falls behind but I think that the quality that we're doing far exceeds anything that you might see in the nearby county area.
We've got a lot of things for kids to do now; we've got ball fields and soccer fields, and you name it, we've got it. With the Aquatic Center just being built last year, that was something we looked at when I was on the commission, that we couldn't wait until that was complete. When it was, it was well received. We have a lot of people swimming in that pool. So I think that Santa Clarita is doing a great job with what funds they can, to give us park-like amenities that we need.
Signal: Duane, you serve on the city's Newhall Redevelopment Committee. A couple of things pertaining to redevelopment have gotten some people excited a proposal to rename part of San Fernando Road as "Main Street," and the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain. What's your vision for Newhall, and what impact will those things have?
Harte: My vision for the redevelopment of downtown Newhall has always been to get an atmosphere where we have people on the streets at 10 (o'clock), 11 at night, walking around doing things, coming out of little restaurants or theaters, things like that.
Have the busing activity, for instance, go over to the mall, outside of BJ's or something; during the summer, there are people all over the place. That's the type of thing I want to see for downtown Newhall. I want to see activity. I want to see people shopping in the stores there, all the small stores that are mom-and-pop run. The more people we can get to Newhall to do the shopping and be there, the better off it's going to be.
As far as the issue of taking people's property away from them, that's probably one of the things farthest from the city's mind right now. Even with the Specific Plan right now, it's still something the city is not looking forward to doing. That's going to be way off in the future, if at all. I think a lot of people are concerned about it, of course. But what a lot of them don't understand is, the value of their property is going to skyrocket because of this.
Winsman: If I could add just one thing on that Supreme Court case as you know, I'm involved with policy committees. I represent the city on the League of California Cities Policy Committee on Housing and Economic Development. We participated in a task force which provided amicus (briefs) to that particular suit to the Supreme Court.
What is not being widely reported is the fact that with that determination for eminent domain for economic development use, there's a very stringent, specific set of findings that have to be made and one ... is that there can't be any other alternative for economic development growth anywhere else within your city. And it pertains to built-in cities that are completely built up, like Burbank, like Pasadena, that absolutely have nowhere else to grow. They have no more open land to develop.
We, on the other hand, have open space to develop economically, so we would be hard-pressed to find that finding.
Secondly, the thing that I think is important for people to remember the eminent domain process is it's not the city coming in and taking your property and saying, "Thank you very much. Good-bye." Compensation has to be paid, due compensation, and its market value is determined by the court system as to what the market value is. So it's not a true "taking"; it's paying you for your property, what it's worth. But you may not necessarily want to sell it.
Signal: Rick, you're going off to run a chamber of commerce in Washington State. What do you know about Washington, and what can you do for them?
Winsman: Washington State is a big, Pacific Northwest, really wet state.
When I was with the National Association of Manufacturers, that was one of my states, and I spent quite a bit of time up there with one of my public affairs reps who lived in Seattle. Politically it's a lot like the state of California. The legislature is Democratic-controlled; federal representation is pretty much Democratic; the two senators are Democratic. On a local level, the community I'll be going to, Longview-Kelso, is pretty much split 50-50 as far as conservative versus liberal.
But the opportunity is in the business community. They were devastated 25 years ago with Mount St. Helens when it erupted, and the two major industries in town Weyerhaeuser and Longview Fiber lost virtually all of their natural resources, all of their raw material, and it has taken 25 years of reforestation to bring them to the point where they are ready now to harvest that replanting. Now they're starting to retool and retrain, and they're finding that they don't have the partnerships in place like we do with their community college, and they haven't been working with their chamber of commerce to establish some of the things in workforce training.
So the chamber was looking for someone on the outside who had experience in those particular issues. They did look nationwide, and for whatever reason they contacted me and said, "Hey, we'd like to talk to you."
Of course, those types of partnerships in this city are what have made our chamber a great chamber and what have made our city a great city. There are things we've done here and challenges that we have faced here that are directly transferable up to Longview-Kelso. I'm just really excited about going up and applying the lessons that I've learned here to benefit their community and quality of life and their businesses up in Longview.
Signal: What made Longview-Kelso so attractive that you'd leave your community work in Santa Clarita behind?
Winsman: There were a couple of factors. The similarities between the two communities Santa Clarita, when I moved here almost 20 years ago; Longview-Kelso as it is now they were both master-planned communities. They were both designed by industrialists. The master plan up there is getting a little tired; needs to be redone. They are talking about how to have a specific plan for their business core. The parallels between the two are just so ironic, and there are fewer people. We (have) twice as many people here as there were 20 years ago 170,000 (today in the incorporated city); in another 20 years we'll be looking at probably a half-million people in the Santa Clarita Valley.
I grew up in small towns, and as such, I kind of have a yen for small towns. I like them. And we've been looking for the past couple of years for a place so we can settle down, take it easy. We were looking up the Central Coast in California, but this opportunity came up, and not only is it an opportunity to do something, but it's also an opportunity to accomplish going to a smaller town at this particular stage in our lives.
Signal: Duane, why don't you take 30 seconds and tell Rick what you really think about him?
Harte: When Rick and I first started hanging out together in the chamber 10 (or) 11 years ago, we got to create a very good friendship. We've done a lot of things together and have had some good times, and we've done a lot for the community together, I think. I'm going to miss a good friend. But like they say, the planes fly both ways.
Winsman: Exactly. (Laughter) Now, I'm not going to link arms with him and sing Kumbayah.
Signal: Rick, take your best shot at Santa Clarita.
Winsman: My best shot is directed to this community as a whole. My wife and I both have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities this community has given us, the friendships we've made you know, as you go through life, you're lucky if you have a half a dozen or more true friends. And just in this community in the past 20 years, we've been very blessed to have a lot more than that. So we leave here not real happy to leave here, but we also wish nothing but the best for this community and all the great people we've met along the way.
See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.