by Diana Sevanian
A few weeks ago, the SCV Press Club named Mayor Bob Kellar as Newsmaker of the Year for 2007.
Between all the news stories, blog posts, and editorials that have been written about him since, he may well be on his way to becoming Newsmaker (or perhaps Most Controversial) for 2008.
Of course, I am referring to all the Kellar-related press that's evolved over his incompletely filled-out Statement of Economic Interest 700 forms.
Amid the print and swirling conversations on that matter, I would like to share with you some personal thoughts about this incumbent City Councilman - things that some of you may or may not know.
I first met Bob Kellar at a charity event in 2000, a library fundraiser I was covering for The Signal. Soon after I introduced him to my friend, Kathy Keysor-Smith. Following their meeting, the two became pals, then eventually partners, and remain together to this day.
Having been to Bob's Canyon Country home many times through the years, as well as to numerous community events and restaurants together, I've had plenty of opportunities to observe the man - and occasionally pick his brain. Admittedly, sometimes while discussing certain issues, I have wanted to do so with a pick axe (and I'm sure he's felt the same).
Bob Kellar is a man of many accomplishments, and some very predictable characteristics.
Known for exclaiming "Sweet Lord!" at the slightest hint of frustration (or amusement) he is definitely a hawkish, flag-waving, set-in-many-of-his-ways, occasionally fiery, old school-golden rule, ex-cop Republican who historically has had no great affinity for liberals.
Yes, we differ in some areas politically and personally, but the longer I know him, the more I've been convinced that rough edges and all, he is a very decent and noble human being.
This may surprise many Republicans and Democrats, but in recent years Bob and I have shared some extremely anguish-filled conversations about the Bush Administration - with both of us now preaching to the same choir. Yes, despite his being a proud and steadfast Republican, Bob has expressed intense disapproval of George W's leadership (or lack thereof), especially with regard to Iraq, homeland security, etc.
A retired LAPD sergeant, Bob cherishes the Santa Clarita Valley and is sincerely committed to protecting it and helping its residents.
Oh, I know, the seasoned cop is against providing a year-round local shelter, and for that he has been portrayed as a heartless NIMBY.
Why the opposition? Bob says he's concerned that what has occurred in other communities will happen here - make our little hamlet a 24/7 welcome mat for transients, and you create a "flop house" for the hardcore homeless, many of whom are drug addicts and ex-cons. (I suspect lots of folks in Mayor Gavin Newsom's Bay Area district would agree with Bob.)
Despite his feelings about a year-round SCV shelter, Bob gives freely to charities that benefit a spectrum of causes and people - including abused women, breast cancer research, seniors, single moms, education, kids without dental care, families of low income without medical insurance, and so on. He does this regardless of a person's ethnicity, nationality, sexual preference, politics, etc.
Whether through time-and-energy consuming fundraiser emceeing or chairing, writing personal checks, providing business sponsorships, or opening his own home for a charitable soiree, Bob Kellar is a bona fide philanthropist.
Some people have pigeonholed him as a pushover for developers and rubber-stamping building projects. If that were truly the case, he wouldn't have questioned the expansion proposed for the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital campus.
The decision to do so was about following his conscience and concerns for the community, not winning a popularity contest or going along with the consensus of hospital and board members (many being his friends and respected community leaders).
That same individuality and "chutzpah" comes to mind when I think of how Bob views the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast - which is not really a mayor-sanctioned event; the title is "borrowed" by the Evangelical Christian prayer event sponsors.
Sensitive to faiths not included at that breakfast, Bob wants it to become more inclusive and realistic. Using the mayor's title (and the publicly assumed "Mayor's OK" it generates), is not something Bob plans to see continue.
As he recently told me: "Let it be a Christian prayer breakfast with the mayor as an 'invited guest speaker,' or a Christian Prayer Breakfast, period, and not use the mayor's title at all. It just shouldn't be something that suggests the mayor's endorsement if it isn't inclusive of all faiths."
"Intolerant conservative" just doesn't fit the bill here.
Now, for a few additional comments on Bob:
No one, and I repeat, NO ONE, has championed our valley's fight against the Cemex mega mine in Soledad Canyon like Bob Kellar. (I am confident that an unbiased fact-check by Congressman Buck McKeon's office will substantiate that claim.)
It was also Bob who led the charge for Santa Clarita in bringing Armando Arroyo Garcia, an illegal Mexican National and drug dealer, back to the States to face punishment for the senseless murder of "one of our valley's own," LASD Deputy David March.
Mr. Kellar tends to play down many of his accomplishments. Personally, I do not think he has received enough credit for much that he's done in our valley. When it comes to his SCV contributions, he is not someone who flaunts his achievements or seeks photo ops.
Lest I forget, in recent years, the Canyon Country cowboy has also become a staunch supporter of the arts in this community.
OK, I'll tip my hat to Kathy on that one.
With the April 8 election coming up, many people are wondering if the recent press over the 700 forms will hurt Bob.
While I think he still has a firm and devoted base of supporters, I also feel that the 700-form errors (or omissions) should not go down as the overall acid test of his character.
Devoted to this community, Bob's civic accomplishments are many and his charitable giving is authentic. I realized this even more last year as I spent six months working on the City's 20-Year Anniversary Book with City of Santa Clarita PIO Gail Ortiz.
So, what about Bob?
Yes, he's a hawkish, flag-waving, set-in-many-of-his-ways, occasionally fiery, old school-golden rule, ex-cop Republican who historically has had no great affinity for liberals.
But have I mentioned that I like him?
Diana Sevanian is a freelance writer and Santa Clarita resident. This editorial, which reflects her own opinons, appeared Sunday, March 23 in The Signal.