New cemetery district manager signs contract

Photos and story by Catherine Stachowiak

Local businessman and Kernville Chamber of Commerce president, Orion Sanders, who attended various meetings when the cemetery district was in distress, became new district manager for Kern River Valley Public Cemetery District.  The board of trustees and county officials hired him after the entity ran into trouble this June.

He told the Kern Valley Sun, Monday June 24, he still had not signed the contract, but confirmed last Friday, that he later signed.

“I put in for it (the position) after careful thought.  I wanted to make sure that the legacy of the work that had been done here continues.  I did not want the cemetery to go away.  I just wanted to make sure that it continued and that all the hard work that had been done there in the past continues to happen,” he said.

Sanders’ contract includes a 32-hour workweek.  The board approved an adjustment in the salary of the employees in order to afford a full time grounds keeper, Sanders said.

Though Sanders has been acquainted with the former manager, and on friendly terms, he said that he has no control over the past and what happened with previous employees.  

“I care about continuing to make sure that the cemetery thrives and that we provide this service for the community.”

Sanders is not new to cemetery business.  He has worked with the community to provide such services previously. Sanders is founder of Sarge’s Wreaths 4 Vets, an organization which works with Wreaths Across America to place wreaths on the headstones of veterans buried at the Kern River Valley Cemetery. “I was a part of the committee to help bring the Bakersfield National Cemetery to Kern County,” he said. “I’ve been involved with doing Cemetery things, specifically in the support of Veterans.  But I’ve worked with other cemetery districts before – doing a couple things.  Those aren’t jobs. Those are volunteer things that I’ve worked with.” 

As far as the position goes, Sanders believes there will be a learning curve, and said he is up for the challenge.

Sanders is hoping to continue to support veterans at the district, with ceremonies for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, open to the public.

July 13, is the day the district has scheduled to resume burials. The district scheduled to conduct the internment for Merilyn Hilsabeck, whose family was sidelined previously on her burial, which was originally slated for June 10. 

Sanders said, “That was one of the biggest things that I was disappointed with, is that we failed in taking care of a family that was already on the schedule, and so we have reached out to that family.  We have them rescheduled. We’re taking care of them. And they are very pleased that things are getting caught up and done.  And so their family will be back here on July 13th.  We will be having more burials going forward.”

Sanders will no longer be working at his position at the hospital, as social media coordinator, in the public relations department.