By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
On Wednesday, January 31, Kern County held its annual State of the County dinner at the Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield.
The event was attended by local politicians and candidates, as well as representatives of Kern County’s multiple business industries.
Kern County’s 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard was the event’s keynote speaker.
“Tonight we’re going to celebrate the best of Kern County,” said Maggard.
The county’s industries were at the forefront of the event, which celebrated Kern’s diverse resources, including the Rio Tinto Borax Mine in Boron, the wind and solar fields in Tehachapi and Cantil, the aerospace industry in Mojave, and the massive amounts of agriculture in Western Kern.
“Kern County has shown time and again that its industries are in a league of their own,” stated 23rd District Congressman Kevin McCarthy via a video presentation.
Kern County is the No. 2 most diverse economy in the country, according to the Kern Economic Development Corporation, who organized the State of the County event. It is the No. 1 oil producing county in the country, overshadowed only by an offshore protraction area of the Gulf of Mexico and the Beechey Point quadrangle in Alaska. Kern County is also No. 1 for agriculture production in the U.S.
“More jobs and more business means more tax dollars in the county coffers so we can provide these services that our taxpayers expect and deserve,” said 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner. “We have gained a reputation in Kern County for being a place where people want to come and do business.”
While Maggard stated that “while the county doesn’t create wealth, we can do a lot to encourage businesses and industries that do generate wealth with jobs, and encourage them to locate and grow right here,” no mention was made of the Supervisors’ recent decision to close the door on the marijuana industry in Kern County.
“Our goal is a healthier and more diverse economy,” he said, stating that agriculture and oil would continue to be the pillars of Kern’s economy.
Maggard also mentioned that the County is now in its second year of a 4-year plan to cut costs while “providing great services to you, the public.”
He said that the plan was working, as the county’s structural deficits had already been cut by more than half.
“We’re staying true to our vision of enhancing the quality of life, bottling excellence in management and fostering innovation while placing a priority on public safety and our employees who protect us every day,” he said.
Maggard also promised that the Board of Supervisors had funded the second year of a Sheriff’s academy to train new deputies and that the County was almost finished with a new Criminal Justice Facility that would focus on preparing inmates for re-entry to the community. He also stated that a budget would also enable implementation of body cameras on law enforcement officers as well as an academy for the Fire Department.
He mentioned continuing projects to improve county roads and parks and recreation as well, as the County would continue to enhance Hart Park, which was referred to by various presenters as a “jewel of Kern County.”
In addition, Maggard gave a brief nod to the Kern River Valley as he spoke about the Isabella Dam Modification Project and Lake Isabella’s incoming Visitor Center.
“Water is always on the minds of our friends up in the Kern River Valley,” stated Maggard. “We need to ensure that the (Army Corps of Engineers) maintains the water levels necessary so that tourism is not harmed in the years it will take to build that new dam.”
He also gave kudos to county services and the State for providing debris removal, septic services and Mobile Housing Units to Erskine Fire survivors in 2017.
Other presentations also included celebration of work being done by Kern County Animal Services to help make Kern a “no kill” county by providing more alteration surgeries to incoming animals rather than outsourcing them.
The achievements of Grimmway Academy and Wonderful College Prep Academy, schools created by Kern County’s Grimmway Farms and The Wonderful Company, were also touted. The academies give children college preparatory courses to give them a leg-up for the rigors of college, as only 14 percent of residents in the county hold a bachelor’s degree.
The presentations also commended multiple agencies in conjunction with Kern County Public Health and the Superintendent of Schools to provide services to at-risk youth, as well as programs that help employ the homeless to break the cycle of poverty.
Maggard stated that the County has a lot of work ahead of it in 2018, and that they would be guided by their three strategic goals in everything they do: enhancing the quality of life for residents, being a model of excellence, and fostering a culture of innovation.
“We cannot rest until everyone in Kern County is healthy, safe and prosperous,” he said.