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Toast of the Coast - Karen White -1

Karen White holds flowers she was given as the Santa Maria Arts Council honoree for its 2015 Individual Grants in the Arts Awards at the Santa Maria Veterans’ Memorial Community Center in 2015. On Saturday, she will be the final guest speaker in the Valley Speaks program. 

Jeanne Sparks, Contributed

In her 40-year career with the Santa Maria Times, Karen White observed many local milestones. On Saturday, she will be a part of one as the final guest speaker in the Valley Speaks program.

During the Santa Maria Historical Society’s event at 11 a.m. in Shepard Hall at the Santa Maria Public Library, White will share her memories of her time at the newspaper and the beats she covered.

During her long tenure at the newspaper, White reported on everything from felons and fires to floods and funerals.

“Her knowledge of the Central Coast is unmatched by most people who cover the news and her career stands as a testament to her long love affair with the area that she calls home,” the Historical Society’s Shirley Contreras said.

White, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, was born and raised in the Arroyo Grande Valley, mostly in the village of Halcyon, and graduated from Arroyo Grande High School in 1956.

In high school, she served on the staffs of the student newspaper and the yearbook. She was also a member of the school’s chapter of Quill and Scroll, a national journalism honor society.

Before coming to the Times, White was no stranger to being a part of significant events.

In the fall of 1956, she was among 200 women who became the first to be admitted to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

While there, she became a part of the college's photo department, chronicling campus life, especially the Mustangs football and boxing squads. She graduated with a degree in agricultural communications.

After 2½ years with the Arroyo Grande Weekly, she moved to the Times, where she covered police news.

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“Karen was one of only a few women employed by the Times at the time, and was one of the first to get a news beat. She quickly gained a reputation of being accurate, fair and fast,” Contreras said.

White’s career at the Times spanned four decades.

After retirement, White has been involved with historical projects in both Halcyon and San Luis Obispo and is the co-editor of an Arcadia “Images of Arcadia” book that is scheduled to be published in November.

Contreras said Saturday's Valley Speaks will be the last due to planned changes in the Historical Society's programs. She added that the program may return but in a different format and location in the future.  

Doors will open at 10 a.m. and since seating is limited, early arrival is suggested.

For more information, call 922-3130.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter