The State of Kern County…is Strong!

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is “Good Friday” morning.  The start of a three-day weekend leading up to Easter.  Easter, this year, falls on March 27th, my dad Paul’s birthday.  He passed away 10 years ago so Sunday is going to be an extra special day.

A relatively calm week at BC with students away on Spring Break.  Walking the quiet campus yesterday, I enjoyed the grounds and the buildings that were so meticulously planned in the 1950’s when the leadership of the campus and the community decided to bring the 40 year old college from Bakersfield High School to the hill.  1801 Panorama Drive….the Home of the Renegades.  A campus carefully planned by visionary leaders 60 years ago.  Jerry Ludeke sent this email to me on March 22nd emphasizing the point of “big thinking” and “big vision.” (Thank you Jerry for taking care of our archives, a gem at BC). Here is an excerpt from Jerry’s email:

Norm Harris

Norm Harris

The document is a letter written from Norm Harris, Coordinator of Vocational-Technical Education who became recognized nationally in that field.  He was reporting to Ralph Prator, the president assigned to build the new campus, on a conference Harris had with Theron Taber, the Assistant District Superintendent in Charge of Business Affairs who had been interim director of BC in the few months between Grace Bird and Ralph Prator.  In 1952 they were in the visioning stage of campus development.  Norm Harris and Theron Taber had different opinions about the path to take:  Taber was thinking in the Present-Static; Harris was thinking in the Future-Expanding.  Fortunately for us in the 60 ensuing years, the vision Norm Harris had won out.

Now, in 2016, we find ourselves in the same spot.  What do we do to take care of this campus for future generations in the next 50 years–2016 to 2066?  Our Board of Trustees is seriously considering a potential bond on the Nov 8, 2016 ballot.  In fact, this year’s Sterling Silver dinner on March 31st, which is sold out btw, will be at the Petroleum Club instead of the cafeteria.  One of the reasons for this shift is due to the fact that the cafeteria needs fixing. The BC Foundation Executive Director Tom Gelder was on KGET this morning talking about Sterling Silver which will be emceed by Alissa Carlson.  Thank you KGET for being a great partner of Bakersfield College!

Paul Beckworth Ellen Eggert Sonya Christian March 24 2016

Paul Beckworth, Ellen Eggert, Sonya Christian

This past week with most students and faculty not being on campus, the rest of us used the time to catch up on work.  I tried to squeeze in some time to do some writing but alas, how time flies.  On Thursday, Paul Beckworth, Armando Trujillo and I attended the Kern County Veterans Collaborative and heard Ellen Eggert speak about depression, suicide and suicide prevention.  It was a sobering topic and she approached it directly, or as a friend says “through the front door.” I was struck by the significant number of serious tragedies that Eggert herself encountered, yet there she was, pragmatically approaching the topic of depression and suicide and giving us strategies and tools to approach a loved one or a stranger to help support them through these life changing times.   I learned from her that BC’s Student Health and Wellness Director Ray Purcell is bringing her on campus on April 13th.



In her presentation Ellen Eggert referred to the book Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk, published in 2006. The entire presentation weighed on me, which led to several walks yesterday, and then to exploring writeups on this book later in the evening.  I found Shenk’s precursor article in the October 2005 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.  Here it is and here is a powerful quote by Shenk

Abraham Lincoln fought clinical depression all his life, and if he were alive today, his condition would be treated as a “character issue” — that is, as a political liability.  His condition was indeed a character issue: it gave him the tools to save the nation.

The Kern County Veterans Collaborative is an active group dedicated to finding resources for our vets.  After the presentation by Eggert, Randy Dickow, chair of the collaborative called for a moment of silence in remembrance of Vernon Valenzuela who passed away several years ago on March 26th.  Vernon was a Vietnam veteran and after he came back he went to BC and started the Veterans Club at BC in the seventies.  He dedicated his life to veterans issues in Kern County and in fact  helped get the Veterans Court into place.  Armando Trujillo, BC’s student vets advisor, was the very first recipient of the Veterans Court.  Vernon Valenzuela, you are a legend in Kern County….we salute you!

You will enjoy this piece in the Bakersfield Californian by Ashley Fisher on Nov 9, 2011 on Vernon.  I was not able to find a photo of Vernon on the web so if you have one, send it my way and I will upload it on this blog post.

Btw, Randy Dickow asked us to “like” the Kern County Veterans Collaborative’s facebook page at

Talking about my activities on Thursday, March 24th, I attended our downtown Rotary meeting after the Veterans Collaborative meeting.  The presenter was Phil Meyer, President and CEO of Valley PBS.  Meyer is a great story teller and his visuals would have made David Koeth very happy.  He talked about the history of journalism and then moved into the future of journalism.  Loved the stories about the evolution of the New York Times, my favorite newspaper, as well as the impact that social media is having on traditional journalism.


Mick Gleason

On January 27th, I attended, for the very first time, the Kern County Board of Supervisors’ 2016 State of the County address, another area event that put a bright spotlight on the county and its lofty goals and achievements.


Before I even get to the speech delivered by Board Chairman and First District Supervisor Mick Gleason, I have to praise the county for the technical brilliance of their presentation.  As part of a group here at BC who produce large-scale events like Opening Day and graduation ceremonies on a regular basis, I was truly blown away by the grandeur and scope of the county’s event celebrating.  [Detour: you have got to check out my January 23, 2016 blog post Spring Opening Day: The Force is with…BC.  It is a lot of fun and you will see the brilliance of Manny De Los Santos, Francis Mayer, Shannon Musser and Dylan Wang]  The professionalism of State of the County production — from the lighting all the way down to their slick Teleprompter system — made you feel like you were actually at a presidential State of the Union address.


Leticia Perez

Mick Gleason’s speech was great (which you can read in its entirety here or watch video of the speech on the County’s website), and I felt a great sense of pride being part of Kern County.  I repeatedly say that it is a good time to be at BC….and I will say, it is a good time to be in Kern County.


With 2016 serving as the county’s 150th anniversary, Gleason began with an engaging trip through his own personal Irish Catholic upbringing before paralleling that journey with Kern County’s own history over the past century-and-a-half.

Check out the “by the numbers” video the County assembled to drive home the long road Kern has followed to get us to today.


David Couch

Gleason’s walk down memory lane recounted many of Kern’s greatest contributions to the state and the rest of America, from the table grapes and pistachios of its vibrant agriculture industry, to the stunning technological innovations in military aviation and national defense that have sprung from work at the nation’s premier weapons lab and testing ground at China Lake.


While reveling in our 150 years of County accomplishments, Gleason also jumped into the nitty-gritty of Kern County’s position in 2016 — a position that wouldn’t be as sound and reasoned as it is without the Board’s courage of leadership.



Zach Scrivner

“We are truly blessed people with a great story and we need to celebrate our blessings,” Gleason said.

With a recent state of unease surrounding Kern County’s once-booming oil industry, Gleason was quick to warn against writing its epitaph just yet.


“The story of oil in Kern County is still being written and, I assure you, it’s far from finished,” Gleason said.  “We are not defined by the price of a barrel of oil, or how much rain falls from the sky, but rather by the character of the people who live here. We have achieved great things in the past, and we are going to do amazing things in the future.”


Mike Maggard

While we’re all aware we face challenges as a county going forward (but who doesn’t?), it’s comforting to know our fortunes are in the capable hands of men and women like Mick Gleason, Zack Scrivner, Mike Maggard, David Couch, Leticia Perez.  Thank you Kern County Board of Supervisors!

Check out my  blog on the time I attended the Board of Supervisor’s meeting when they approved the funding for the Game Changer project in Arvin, a collaborative project with Mike Turnipseed (Kern Tax), Leticia Perez (Supervisor), Bryon Schaefer (KHSD) and Bakersfield College.

August 4, 2015. Does it take a Village or does it take a County


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3 thoughts on “The State of Kern County…is Strong!

  1. anthony culpepper March 28, 2016 at 4:36 pm Reply

    It truly takes a village. Bakersfield College has a wonderful support system that ensures its needs. This level of engagement needs to continue to ensure BC remains sustainable. Thank you President Christian for reminding us.

  2. Anthony Culpepper March 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm Reply

    It truly takes a village. Bakersfield College has a wonderful constituency of supporters. This will be essential to sustain BC for the next 100 yrs. Thank you President Christian for reminding of those who exemplify that important message. Tagged: Andy Vidak

  3. […] The fair was opened by keynote speakers Vice President Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, Director Matthew Constantine of Kern County Public Health and Ellen Eggert, Project Supervisor of Kern County Mental Health. Also present was the Medical Director of Student Health and Wellness, Dr. Ron Ostrum. [check out my March 25th blog that mentions Ellen Eggert] […]

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