You may not know it by looking at her, but Linda Carhart was a rock 'n' roller before she moved to Tehachapi.
Ever since arriving in our mountain community, she has rocked and rolled her way into the hearts of local folks, which is why she has been named Citizen of the Year for 2019 by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News.
"First, I was humbled," Carhart said of her reaction after finding out she was to receive the award. "I mean, I certainly don't do what I do because I expect to get anything other than the joy of doing it. So, I was really surprised and elated."
Before arriving in Tehachapi, Carhart was employed in the music business for 25 years in Agoura Hills, and worked closely with famous artists including Jethro Tull, Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis and the News, Billy Idol, Blonde, Smashing Pumpkins, Janet Jackson and other hit bands.
"I left the record business because it was really changing," Carhart said. "The record business was not anything like it was when I started in the '70s."
A switch in careers
When her oldest child started junior high school, Carhart decided she needed to spend more time on the homefront, so she left the long hours of the music industry and went to work with the local school district, Las Virgenes Unified, so she could have all the same days off as both her children, Timothy and Caitlyn.
"That was the biggest culture shock ... trying to get into a straight, kinda job from something like the music business," Carhart said. "But, it was my cover letter that got me the interview because I told them that working with rock stars was very similar with working with teenagers ... they have no sense of direction and are a little wild."
After 10 years working at Las Virgenes, Carhart retired. She and her husband of 39 years, James, bought property in Tehachapi in 2003 and eventually moved here in 2006 along with their children.
"When we moved here, my husband works in the entertainment business and he is gone a lot. The one I thing I said to him was, if we moved here, don't leave me alone on the hill," she said. "As he went back to work, I decided I better figure out what I'm going to do with myself because I don't want to be sitting here doing nothing."
With this in mind, Carhart said she went to a Main Street event, and the next thing she knew, she was on the promotion committee; she served for many years and later became a board member. Six months after that, she said she was hired on as the director until it became a strictly volunteer organization due to funding restraints.
Altruism at its finest
In her letter nominating Carhart for Citizen of the Year, Sandy Landers wrote, "Basically, you will see Linda's smiling face at about any event you attend in Tehachapi. She very well may have spent hours leading, coordinating and orchestrating that event. She loves this town and all that we enjoy in Tehachapi."
During her involvement with Main Street Tehachapi, Carhart worked on a number of projects, including three annual Wine Walks, the Oktoberfest and the Chili Cookoff.
In 2013, she joined the Rotary Club and served as their fundraising chair and publicity chair before becoming president in 2015. In July, she will take over the reins and serve as the civic organization's president for a second time.
As a Rotarian, Carhart has been instrumental in executing fundraisers such as the Wine Pairing Dinner, Tehachapi Mountain Beer and Wine Festival, Cheers to Charity's Silent Auction, the Non-Profit Showcase, Breakfast with Santa and the Tehachapi Apple Festival. She is currently working on a project for the Comfort Kids with the Lions Club to benefit the new Adventist Heath Tehachapi Valley hospital.
She has also served on the Tourism Board, and currently serves as a fundraising chair for Tehachapi Community Theatre and volunteers at the Visitor's Center once a month.
"Linda gives so much back to our community through her volunteer work. She is one of Tehachapi’s finest jewels," said Ida Perkins, president of the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce. "We look forward to celebrating Linda’s service to our community at our Installation & Recognition Gala in February."
An adoring family
"Linda is a never-ending energy force and works harder now after retiring," said her husband, James. "I admire her selfless attitude toward life and family. She loves Tehachapi and the community here."
According to James, Carhart was no different when the couple lived in "Old Agoura" where she was often found taking on roles writing the newsletter and serving on the board of directors of the homeowners association and chairing the HOA’s large barbecue fundraiser for 800 people.
Said James, "My job still takes me away from Tehachapi, and there is no grass growing under her feet when I’m gone, believe me. She is an inspiration to everyone, and I can't say enough of how proud I am to be married to such a giving, generous, loving and beautiful human being."
James and Linda are expecting their first grandchild in May, when Caitlyn is due to give birth.
"My mom has always been one to step up and volunteer to be a leader when others need it, even when it pushes her out of her comfort zone," said Caitlyn, who resides in San Fernando Valley.
When Caitlyn's Girl Scout leader moved away, she said, her mother and another woman stepped up together to pick up the pieces and keep the troop going, knowing if they didn't, the troop would no longer exist.
"Neither of them had experience, but were willing to learn and make it an amazing growing experience for all of us girls. I am still in contact with some of those women today and they still talk about the lasting effect my mom made on their life," the daughter said. "She infused her beliefs in community service into our troop's many activities. Starting in third grade, she had our troop volunteering at senior homes, cleaning beaches and more."
Caitlyn recalled how her mother came to the rescue a second time when her 4-H summer camp was in danger of being shut down due to a lack of volunteers.
"My mom once again stepped up for the many teens in our 4-H club and took on the volunteer leadership role of our 4-H camp," she said. "She gave countless hours to make sure this experience, which benefited hundreds of children across Ventura County, continued. She did this for no other reason than to keep the opportunity to attend this camp available for the children in our community."
Looking back, Caitlyn said, her mother served as her role model growing up.
"The importance of volunteering and giving back to your community has stayed with me my whole life," Caitlyn said. "I have continued to volunteer as an adult, and I absolutely attribute this desire to give back to others to the example my parents set for me."
Timothy Carhart said his mother taught him how to work extremely hard, but do it in a creative and kind manner.
"She continues to take on so much and do it so effortlessly," said Timothy, who now resides in Las Vegas. "It is an amazing thing to watch. She has been supportive to everyone around her, and I am happy to say that she has moved on from not just a role model, but has also become a best friend."
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Carhart said she learned the art of altruism early on from her father.
"I realized that it stems from my family," she said. "My dad was in the Knights of Columbus my entire life growing up. He and another man put together a program to work with developmentally delayed adults."
When Carhart went to work for the school district, one of her responsibilities was working with children who were also developmentally delayed.
"It was at that point that I realized that I had gone full-circling and I'm working with the same kind of people that my dad cherished working with," she said. "I think I took my cue from him."
When she is not volunteering, she can be found taking her 97-year-old mother to lunch or to the store or attending her book club meetings.
Asked where she sees herself in five years, Carhart said, "Doing what I'm doing. I will always be involved. Community means family, engagement, caring and satisfaction. To me, giving to the community is very satisfying.