Scotts Valley became a city 57 years ago on August 2, 1966. Scotts Valley is still a young city and still evolving. The city’s population has grown from approximately 3,600 in 1970 to about 12,000 residents living in some 4,600 homes today.
Forming a new city did not happen overnight. It took the threat of a proposed memorial park and cemetery to spur Scotts Valley residents to begin the difficult process of incorporation. The idea of incorporation had previously been discussed, but not pursued. However, when the City of Santa Cruz moved to annex the Skypark Airport property along Mt. Hermon Road, and concerns were raised about the proposed cemetery project east of Highway 17, some residents believed it was a good time to push for local control. To spearhead the process, the Scotts Valley Property Owners Association formed in 1960, with Agnes Lewis as president.
After extensive study group meetings, committee meetings, and spirited public forums in the early 1960’s, the incorporation measure went to the ballot on April 14, 1964. The proposal passed with the narrow margin of 344 voters in favor of incorporation and 323 voters against. The results were challenged in court over the next two years until the case was finally heard in the state’s district court of appeal. Some challenged votes were thrown out, but city incorporation still held the majority vote; and Scotts Valley became a city on August 2, 1966. As for the proposed cemetery, the developer never appeared at the final hearing and the cemetery’s use permit expired.
On August 2, 1966, the first elected officials for the new city took office. Business owner and developer Bill Graham was elected mayor, winning a coin toss with C. R. Roberson, who became vice mayor. M. Willis Lotts took his seat as an elected council member. The other two elected council members, Ken Stacy and Dave Alford, had moved out of the city limits during the two-year challenge period, so Paul Couchman, Jr. and James Kennedy were appointed by the city council to replace them.
Scotts Valley Water District Board President Friend Stone was appointed to be the first city administrator. In later years, he served as mayor. In a 1971 newspaper interview, he explained his vision for Scotts Valley: “Just another city is not our aim. Our plan is a well-balanced city with enough business revenue to pay for city government, enough industrial enterprise to furnish jobs to those who want to live in the area and enough green belt areas scattered around within this so we don’t get crowded.”
When the city was formed, there were no funds on hand, so the city borrowed $20,000 from a local bank and obtained an $11,000 law enforcement grant to start up city operations.
Gerald Pittenger was appointed as the city’s first police chief and worked for nine months by himself. Initially, he had no car, equipment, uniform, nor citation forms, so he borrowed supplies from other jurisdictions. Scotts Valley has had only six police chiefs in its history, including Stephen Walpole I, Thomas Bush, Steven Lind, John Weiss and current Chief Stephen Walpole II. They have all worked hard to make Scotts Valley a safe place to live. Current Council Member (and former Mayor) Donna Lind was hired as the first city hall secretary and went on to lead a productive law enforcement career in Scotts Valley.
Much of the historical information in this article has been borrowed from the enlightening book “Images of America – Scotts Valley” by Deborah Muth, President of the Scotts Valley Historical Society. This book provides a lot of fascinating information about the history of our area, including events long before Scotts Valley became incorporated. This book is available in local stores. In addition, portions of this article derive from an illuminating article entitled “Founding fathers – Water, airplanes, and tombstones” written by then Mayor Donna Lind for the 50th Anniversary of Scotts Valley. If you haven’t already discovered these wonderful resources, I encourage you to read them to learn more about the history of Scotts Valley.
Today, we are blessed with a wonderful city, featuring great schools, a safe community and a green environment. Our economy is growing and we enjoy abundant parks and recreational activity. I thank the visionaries who were instrumental in forming the city and the residents who approved the ballot measure. Scotts Valley is a special place to live.