Being given a title of“everyone’s ethical compass” how could this modern American woman be anything but an inspiration? Carol McCarthy was not just another employee with 30 years behind her; she wasn't just retiring from the City of Santa Clara as assistant city manager transitioning into retirement to live the rest of her wonderful life from the "other side." This unsung hero was blending into the community she was once a pillar for, helping to build its now sound foundation; she was leaving behind a legacy for others to continue to carry out. A hero to some; a role model to others; an inspiration to all who knew her – find out more about Carol McCarthy and the amazing city she helped build and maintain in the second half of this exclusive interview with P.K. on Examiner.com
McCarthy relishes in the thoughts of the her moments with the community, stating that there were of course difficult moments, such as the earthquakes and floods – but that there were also many memorable moments community-wise such as the holidays with “Teddy,” the city’s holiday tradition since the early 1900s.
“We have a tradition with a bear on top of the city’s Christmas tree, a tradition that began sometime in the early 1900s,” said McCarthy, with this “Teddy,” beginning his tradition with the city in 1936 when a former city employee, Mr. Dixon, “borrowed the bear from his daughter’s crib (Alice Dixon-Hillis) and brought it in for the tree topper” – a new city and community tradition with “Teddy” now a treasured part of the tree lighting ceremony. “Teddy became a tradition as did the tree lighting every first Friday of December,” said McCarthy, “When Teddy was placed atop the Christmas tree representing the lighting of the community tree – there was always someone in the crowd, usually children, screaming ‘Teddy’ in the background,” said McCarthy, “The tradition has been carried on ever since, through every tree moving – from the City’s old locations to the current location; it was just another one of the many memorable traditions of Santa Clara.”
McCarthy also stated that the late Dixon-Hillis attended a tree lighting ceremony to honor Teddy in 1987 – although Dixon-Hillis was there to honor Teddy, the real honor was for city staff with the presence of Dixon-Hillis. (Slide show photos shared by McCarthy reveal two memorable Teddy moments: One with Alice Dixon-Hillis with Teddy; with the second photo is Teddy with city employee Electric Utility Lineman, Phil Waterhouse, in 2005 (Waterhouse is now an Electric Meter Technician working in the Electric Meter Shop). According to McCarthy, Teddy received a “fur-lift” by wonderful community member, Evelyn Carmichael, who restored Teddy to his original early 1900s style after he had become tattered and torn and repaired numerous times with duct tape and silver spray paint. Many of the events McCarthy attended with her family, sometimes she said, spending more time at community events than at home. “It was all of those community events that clinched it for me,” said McCarthy, “When I see the faces enjoying programs and activities.”
McCarthy not only made history but she also helped to “proudly” preserve it when she assisted with the Santa Clara Library’s “Oral History” project, working closely with Historian Librarian Mary Hanel. Together they interviewed residents in Santa Clara to not only preserve the town’s history, but also digitally record and preserve the town’s businesses and residents, some four and five generations out. Included were people like Parade of Champions Larry J. Marsalli and his wife; or Emma Kaliterna, who was an amazing 94 years young his past December 26; McCarthy said they wanted people to have access to history that is so important. “People may not know that Silicon Valley was once known as “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” a town filled with cherry blossoms and canaries; or that Santa Clara used to be the prune capital of the world,” said McCarthy, “It’s very important to preserve our past – it is part of what makes us what we are today.”
McCarthy’s years were filled with so many memories in a city and community she found to be not only diverse but interesting; from the various annual functions and events to the many members she met at the many community events such as the Santa Clara Rotary and even the Silicon Valley BBQ, a “sanctioned BBQ competition” which, according to McCarthy, is actually going on its 16th year (and moving to Central Park this year). “There are so many things that change, evolve and make history; we are lucky to be among the most diverse,” said McCarthy, “We are all very fortunate.”
Despite the difficulty in her transition into retirement, McCarthy is indeed ready for the next chapter and looks forward to spending time with her husband, family and grandchildren (22 months and one year old); – “My kids live close and I’m lucky,” said McCarthy. “You become friends with your teammates, but grandparent duty calls.” She said it will be an exciting time for her and her husband, stating that she may also volunteer some, such as with the Leadership Program; otherwise, she just wants to “watch her grandchildren grow.” And, although her job was very gratifying, she said she is excited to view things from the other side – as a resident.
McCarthy doesn't see herself as a unique, let alone anyone’s hero – and true to form she refuses to stand in a spotlight, at least not alone. Carol McCarthy may forever remain somewhat of a “mystery” woman although clearly nothing less than remarkable – and forever an inspiration. A fine example of the modern American woman, may others also view McCarthy and be equally inspired to not only point their “ethical compass” due “right” but may they see more often what goes on behind the scenes, and not just in a job, but in life – at the broader picture.
One can’t help but think, “Would it not be amazing to see such ethics trickle all the way up to the top of government?”
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Information about the City of Santa Clara and its amazing programs:
Santa Clara was named All-America City on the first submission, in the first year, an honor for everyone at the City and within the community. A partial list of the other amazing awards the City of Santa Clara has received is also available online.
Ethics & Values programs: Implemented in 2000, the Ethics & Values Program is a nationally recognized program with a Vote Ethics component that was honored by the state as a model program. A program to increase public trust and confidence in government by promoting and maintaining the highest standards of personal and professional conduct of the people who work in or represent the city. Vote Ethics educates and encourages candidates to run honest and fair campaigns that help to build public trust. (McCarthy compiled a Q&A on the city’s website for those interested.)
Oral History Project: A project for the City of Santa Clara to help preserve the community's history, available at the Central Park Library. Contact: History Librarian, Mary Hanel. Tidbit: Historically, prior to Hanel, a group of Santa Clara University students used to do the research; Santa Clara wanted to continue the tradition.
Leadership Santa Clara: A six-month program to prepare citizens for a leadership role in the community.
And speaking of libraries, a new library is under construction over near Montegue Expressway and Lickmill; stay tuned for more details on that in the coming months.
Other programs and information, visit the city website.
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