Our community partners and CTE programs

Jess Nieto and Sonya Christian Jan 9 2016

Sonya Christian with Jess Nieto Jan 9, 2016

I got back home late on Friday (Jan 8th) night after spending almost an entire week in Sacramento at the Accreditation Commission meeting.  Was happy to wake up in my own bed and start the day slowly and quietly with a cup of coffee and a bagel and this blog post.  Headed out to my usual 9:30 a.m. exercise class on Saturday morning and when I stepped out for a drink of water, I heard someone call out to me….I turned to see Jess Nieto, one of many community members who care so much for this community.  It was wonderful hearing Mr. Nieto talk about his work in Bakersfield as well as Bakersfield College.  He spoke with enthusiasm about how he believed that the leaders in our community should be invited to mentor our students.  He also spoke very highly of John Collins, former president of Bakersfield College.  And I completely agree with him on both counts.

Michael Carley

Michael Carley with Kati Haycock April 3 2014.

Michael Carley, our Institutional Researcher from Porterville College sent me this link to the Californian’s story about the passing of a great Renegade, Red Simpson who pioneered the Bakersfield Sound http://tinyurl.com/huq56op.  Thank you Michael for sending this my way.  I did tweet the link and thought I would include it in my blog as well.  Your email caused me to youtube some old country music songs which my grandpa Arthur used to play when I was growing up.  

Today, I also came across this great poster of Amgen that our local community brought to Bakersfield. For those of you who may not be familiar with Amgen Tour of California, this is an international  professional cycling race started in California in 2006.

Jay Rosenlieb worked with a team that brought Amgen to Bakersfield in 2010 and again in 2012.  Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports, was part of the core group that made this event possible.  At the Board of Trustees meeting that Rosenlieb and Ryan attended, Jay described Kerry as being key to pulling off the event– “Without his knowledge of professional cycling and connections to the local cycling community, this event would not have been possible.”  The third member of the core team was Jim Cordle, a CPA, who acted as the business manager. It was a great team and during the years that they were in operation they were able to grant about $70,000 back to the community and BC was a recipient of their generosity. Jay, could BC partner with you and your team again to bring this magical moment back to Bakersfield?

Talking about the community and partnerships, what comes to mind are the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs at BC.  Each and every CTE program has an advisory committee comprised of individuals from business and industry.  Let me share with you some pieces of information that I received from Cindy Collier and Liz Rozell.

DSC00065Not long ago we were happy to welcome to campus members of the Central/Mother Lode Regional Consortium and our area Deputy Sector Navigators (DSN), both to see our Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework firsthand, as well as to talk with us about how that training can better serve the employment demands of regional industries.

The Central/Mother Lode Regional Consortium (CRC) is a collaboration of community college faculty and staff with regional workforce and economic development organizations that serve the Central and Mother Lode region. The CRC supports regional economic growth by facilitating development of college training and educational programs to meet the needs of regional businesses and industries.

Deputy Sector Navigators convene advisory groups in each of the region’s primary industry sectors; provide outreach and partnership support to the community colleges; facilitate the endorsement of new credit Career Technical Education programs; and serve as a connection between local colleges and business.

DSC00075Obviously, their input not only channels valuable communication between colleges like BC and the area’s largest job providers, but more importantly, it makes sure our CTE programs are helping students become as employable as possible the minute they graduate with their degree.

It was a large group of dedicated individuals, including Karri Hammerstrom, Regional Chair; Nora Seronello, Center of Excellence – Central Valley region; Valerie Fisher (Health); Lorinda Forrest (Small Business); Shelley Attix (Retail/Hospitality); Jeanette Benson (Global trade and logistics); Dennis Mohle (ICT/Digital Media); Gurminder Sangha (Advanced Manufacturing); Bob Hawkes (Regional SB 1070 Director); and David Teasdale (Prop. 39 Dir., Energy and Efficiency).

After introductions, our BC CTE representatives talked about their programs and courses, highlighting changes they’ve made to curriculum in response to industry needs and labor market changes, including new digital media, commercial music, automotive, public health sciences, paramedic and baccalaureate programs.  They also highlighted the collaborative work going on with the CCPT1/CCPT2 and C6 grants and the growth in Kern County’s rural communities, especially highlighted in the ongoing growth and development of BC’s welding, agriculture and health programs.

In addition, job development specialist Stephanie Baltazar and faculty shared information regarding all the varied internships, job placement programs, career connection events and “soft” skills (resume development, interview techniques, etc.) that they are providing students.

BC’s Health Care group highlighted their phenomenal employment rates of 95% or greater.

Meanwhile, auto and welding faculty shared that most of their students had jobs before they completed the programs.

IMG_9372Right now, the Bakersfield College Automotive Technology program provides a wide range of training for automotive technicians with an average of 250 students each year participating in the program. Through the guidance and feedback of an active Automotive Advisory Committee, the program serves the community well by responding to the increasing needs of industries in Kern County.

The newest Automotive Technology faculty member Andrew Haney gave the visiting CRC group a guided tour of Vic Posey’s engine repair and machining, electrical, and smog testing labs. Andrew and Vic, along with their colleagues Dan Johnson and Justin Flint, showed how they provide a dynamic, hands-on learning environment preparing students for employment as automotive technicians, smog test technicians, engine repair technicians, engine machinists, transmission repair technicians, alignment specialists, suspension specialists, brake system specialists, tire service technicians, air conditioning technicians, electrical diagnostic specialists, onsite/field repair technicians, heavy duty equipment technicians, service writers and consultants, parts sales persons and more.

We’re so proud of BC’s automotive program, a true standout among such programs in the state and a shining positive example of the college’s commitment to student success.  The auto dealerships in Bakersfield have been just wonderful in supporting our program.  Thank you!

As for BC’s welding program, it’s strategically designed to easily adapt to the economic fluctuations of local industry and increased student support needs.  Student success is enhanced with online instruction, embedded remedial skills, innovative technology, and engaged faculty, who continuously seek improvement via professional development.

Welding faculty member Josh Ralls provided an excellent overview of the program to our visiting DSNs, briefly describing the stackable organization of the curriculum.  In 2014-2015, the welding program experienced a 9% growth increase to 364 students.  This was primarily due to an expansion of the program to the Delano campus, facilitated by Professor Mike Komin in partnership with the Delano Joint Union High School District.  Additional growth is expected through faculty participation in the California Career Pathways Trust grant initiative to develop a successful dual enrollment program with our local and rural high schools.


IMG_9678We also can’t forget Electronics Technology, one of the fastest growing programs in the Engineering and Industrial Technology Department.  Currently, ET is at an incredible 32% growth in headcount during the last academic year.

The Electronics Technology program at Bakersfield College provides electronics training for a wide variety of technicians, including automation, instrumentation, consumer electronics, radio/telecommunications, installation and electronic systems fabrication.  In addition, Electronics Technology is the lower division feeder program to Bakersfield College’s new Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Automation, to begin in Fall 2016.

DSN guests were given a tour of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing lab, where they learned more about BC’s innovative industrial automation program of study within the Electronics Technology program. Electronics faculty member Manny Fernandez provided an overview of this rigorous and technically challenging program and related employment opportunities within the various industry sectors utilizing industrial automation and electronics preparation.

These are just some of the highlights from the DSN visit, which also included presentations from other notable BC programs, including FACE (Leah Carter and Corny Rodriguez), Culinary (Suzanne Durst and Alex Gomez), Child Development (Danell Ward, Jo’L Jackson and Bernadette Towns), Agriculture (Lindsay Ono and Corny Rodriguez), Horticulture (Lindsay Ono), Plant Science, Performing Arts (John Gerhold and Manny Mourtzanos), Commercial Music (Josh Ottum), Digital Art (Kris Stallworth and David Koeth), Nursing/Allied Health (Jennifer Johnson) and Rad Tech (Nancy Perkins).

A big thank you to our gracious DSN’s, to the wonderful CTE faculty members who took the time to present their stellar educational work and to Cindy Collier and Liz Rozell for the exceptional information they provided to me on  a wonderful visit and invaluable day.

Check out my Nov 30, 2013 blog on Allied Health and CTE Dean Cindy Collier:


Also check out my April 29, 2014 blog on Liz Rozell, Dean, Engineering and Industrial Technology which includes our new baccalaureate program in Industrial Automation:



2016: The Force Awakens

Happy New Year Bakersfield!

It’s 2016, a new year, and The Force is with Bakersfield College!

Promising Professionals 1 fall 2015

Sonya Christian with the Promising Professionals

The year just completed (2015) was a great one for BC.  With over 24,000 students and an annual Full Time Equivalent Student (FTES) exceeding 13,500, the college’s student-to-faculty productivity remains high, and total operational cost-per-FTE remains low at $3,789. Student Education Plan completion has increased, with most disciplines seeing completion rates of over 70%. Matriculation percentages have increased, with 88% of first-time students completing Orientation and 87% completing Assessment. 100% of Student Support programs completed Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), 100% of programs completed Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs). BC offers 23 Associate Degrees for Transfer and 24 dual enrollment courses at high schools. BC developed three new programs last year—Applied Music, Public Health, Multimedia and hired 35 new faculty. BC has deepened its ties with the community and has developed the Renegade Scorecard to advance the accountability of the college and the transparency to the community. check it out at https://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/scorecard

BC’s key strength is its people.  Faculty and staff are talented and dedicated to the students and to the institution.  As such, they are motivated to do what it takes to “Make It Happen” in advancing student learning and progression towards their educational goals.


Especially with all of the hectic activity of 2015 this past week was a relatively quiet one with students and employees alike taking a break to spend time with family and friends, rest and rejuvenate for the spring term.  I was happy to attend the Kwanzaa celebration held at the MLK community center on Owens Street.

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This was the the first time that I attended the celebrations here in Bakersfield.  The event was fun and inspiring all at once.  I found the drum beat in the music mesmerizing and felt as if my own heartbeat was in rhythm with the drum.  Another favorite part of the program for me was the story telling by Lynell Moore  who just retired from Owens Elementary School.  Moore had us in the first 30 seconds of the story about Anansi, the spider, who tried to figure out the names of the King’s daughters.  Anansi, as I understand from Wikipedia,  is an African folktale character. He often takes the shape of a spider and is considered to be the spirit of all knowledge of stories. African folklore, Moore said, always has a moral and as it turns out the moral of the very engaging story for the day was that we should focus on long-term goals rather than-short term.  “Short-term goals are good. But long term goals are better.”  Good to hold this for 2016.

For more on the Bakersfield Kwanzaa Celebration check out KBAK at: http://tinyurl.com/pbgpmdl.  Also a special thank you to Bakari Sanyu for organizing the event.

I also thought you might enjoy as I did the seven principles (Nguzo Saba in Swahili) that describe the spirit of Kwanzaa. Particularly appropriate as we start a new year.


Nguzo Saba The Seven Principles

Talking about the core principles of Kwanzaa, I am reminded about BC’s core values  that were developed in 2013 with Professor Wesley Simms finalizing the language and Professor David Koeth creating the symbols.  Sit back and immerse yourself in the words and the images.

BC Core Values

New Year’s eve was very special this year, bringing in the new year with friends at Buck Owens Crystal Palace.  This was very different from the last three years where I watched the the Hobbit movies  on Dec 31st (2013, 2014, 2015), a phenomenal movie series btw, and also a great way to bring in the new year!  I love the song The Misty Mountain Cold in the Hobbit. There is a 3:00-minute version of this on youtube, but I thought I would share the extended 8:06-minute one instead.  I am sure you will be enchanted with it.

This New Year’s eve saw the passing of the legendary Natalie Cole.  I absolutely love her redo of the song “Unforgettable,” a beautiful love song, by her father Nat King Cole.  It is not surprising that it won several Grammy awards in 1992 including song of the year.  Please take a moment (3:48 minutes) to slip into the heartfelt and elegant world of this song.


To close out this post, let me share with you what a friend shared with me recently; an amazing verse from Rudyard Kipling’s If.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
Warm wishes to each and every one of you in this amazing community from all faculty, staff and students of Bakersfield College.  Here’s to a glorious 2016!

A Holiday Blog

Eisha and Mom Dec 25 2015

Eisha Christian, Pam Christian

Woke up to a quiet house this morning–December 27, 2015.  My daughter and her husband left yesterday after spending two nights and two and a half days with me.  I packed up some of my daughter’s favorite food items which we cooked ahead of time — coffee cake with butter icing topped with chopped caramelized pecans, roast beef, and beef stew with potatoes.  It felt like old times when she would visit from college and then head back with lots and lots of home cooked food.  As a friend texted me Christmas eve, it’s a wonderful life!

We did the usual fireplace talks, great food, monopoly, and movies.  This year of course it was Star Wars — The Force Awakens.  The movie, at the new IMAX in Bakersfield, was just awesome, and Manohla Dargis describes it best in her Dec 16, 2015 review in the New York Times at


Strobels at Star Wars

Strobel extended family.  Picture from Facebook

J.J. Abrahms, the director of episode VII, was described in a recent article I read as a cross between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  The Sunday Californian now has a USA Today insert that names J.J.Abrahms one of the “People of the Year” for Star Wars.

Renegades, the Force has always been with Bakersfield College, but even so I feel the stirrings of a new awakening.  Watch out 2016!
Or as Yoda once taught us, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Judge David Lampe

Sonya Christian and David Lampe

Leading up to Christmas there were so many events it was tiring and wonderful all at once.  One of the highlights was meeting Judge David Lampe at the Open House at Cathy Abernathy’s home.  He is an alum of BC and spoke fondly of his time at the college particularly the quality of the faculty.  He said his two favorite faculty were Sam McCall at BC and Charles McCall at CSUB.  They had very difference approaches to teaching Political Science he said — Sam McCall being more of a traditionalist focusing on the purpose and organization of the state from an ethical and philosophical perspective, while Charles McCall was more of a behaviorist focusing on the political behaviors and informal relationships that influence decisions.  At all of the events that I attended, I was reminded over and over again how much our community loves Bakersfield College.  And this includes political leaders like Jean Fuller, Shannon Grove, Kevin McCarthy, Andy Vidak, Rudy Salas, Leticia Perez, Zack Scrivner…….. and of course, the fabulous Harvey Hall.


Bryan Burrows Dec 19 2015

Bryan Burrow and Sonya Christian

Another highlight was the BC Choir performing with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at their Home for the Holidays event featuring all our favorite Christmas music at the Harvey Auditorium.  Bryan Burrow, CEO of the BSO is just a great partner.  Bryan deeply believes in the value of the having a fine symphony in the community and puts in a lot of effort in planning and taking care of details.  I did not get around to purchasing tickets for the event from the website until I showed up at the Harvey Auditorium at around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday hoping that the ticket office would be open.  It was not.  Instead I found Jen Garrett and conductor Stilian Kirov with the choir and symphony rehearsing for the evening performance.   I also found Bryan in his sweatshirt and jeans doing a lot of the detailed grunt work to make sure that the evening was very special for all those who were attending.  He is my kind of a guy.  Here he is all cleaned up for the event in the evening after putting in long hours ahead of time.  Thank you Bryan! 

The photo collage below was taken from Mary Jo Pasek’s Facebook page.

Bryan brought the symphony to the college for the Noteworthy Event marking the reopening of the outdoor theater, part of the Simonsen Performing Arts Center (SPArC). I missed the opportunity to blog about this great event, but here is a post on the ribbon cutting of SPArC



Josh Rothstein with Frank Gifford Bobblehead

Josh Rothstein with the Frank Gifford Bobblehead

A third highlight was getting a photo from Josh Rothstein with a Frank Gifford bobblehead.  I received an email on December 6th from Josh’s dad Eric.  Here is a copy and paste.

Dear President Christian:

I write on behalf of my son Joshua who collects bobbleheads. I was wondering if the college has any extra of the Frank Gifford bobblehead that it just sponsored and if so whether you can send one to Josh? I know he would greatly appreciate it as he is a big New York Giants fan as it is our hometown team. If you can, Josh’s address is: ****

Thank you and happy holidays.

Eric Rothstein

Of course, we did not have any extra bobbleheads but Francis Mayer who always does the impossible, located the bobblehead which Jennfier Marden mailed to Josh.  On December 23rd, right before Christmas, Josh received the bobblehead and sent the picture to Jennifer.

A fourth highlight was the full moon on Christmas — a rare phenomenon.  I headed out early Christmas morning and took this series of pictures on my iphone.  The first with the moon relatively high in the sky, followed by others as the sky got brighter and the moon lower on the horizon.

For more on the Christmas Full Moon check out


A final highlight: BC has remarkable students. A majority of them are first-generation college-going among other challenges. The college has expanded its student employment and engagement opportunities on campus. One such program is the “Promising Professionals” that provides employment for students in leadership roles. On Dec. 23rd as we were wrapping up activities to start the holiday campus closure, we took this picture in the welcome lobby:

Promising Professionals Dec 23 2015

Sonya Christian on Dec 23, 2015 with BC Students –The Promising Professionals



BC Wrestling: 5 Conference Champs Lead Squad to Regionals

Jean Fuller and Sonya Christian Dec 17 2015

Sonya Christian and Jean Fuller. Dec 17, 2015

Last week, after finals, I thought the pace would slow down as we started moving towards the holidays.  But no, that was not the case.  It was a very good, and very active, week at the college.

One of the highlights for me was a conversation I had with Senator Jean Fuller.  As you may know, Senator Fuller is an alum of BC and is doing us proud with her amazing work. She is currently the Senate Republican Leader and first female to hold this post in California’s history.  Senator Fuller is a force in Sacramento with a reputation for getting things done.  A straight-talking individual with a deep love for her community, Fuller has a big vision for the area she represents and for California as a whole, even as she pays careful attention to the details to move the work and achieve the impossible. For more on Fuller, check out her website at http://district16.cssrc.us/

Then there was Kern Tax annual dinner.  Michael Turnipseed, CEO, does great work monitoring our tax dollars while connecting the different agencies in Kern County to advance workforce and economic development.  You may want to check out my blog on August 4th on a great piece of work Turnipseed facilitated:


Tom Burke in on the Board of Kern Tax and invited me as his guest. Connected with wonderful people during this event.  Here is a picture with Midge Boydstun Jimerson, who is the daughter of John Boydstun and a strong supporter of BC.

I also attended Vienna Battistoni’s retirement party and met Meg Gonder and Linda Hudson, two remarkable women who introduced themselves as Clayton Fowler‘s aunts.  Fowler is the current SGA president at BC and he is doing remarkable work advancing student leadership and student engagement on campus.

Talking about the Boydstun’s, John  is a die hard Renegade football fan and comes to all of our games.  Also, was happy to connect with Bob Hodel, another supporter of Renegade Football. For more on Bob Hodel, check out my Nov 9, 2014 blog about the Alumni BBQ as well as the September 5, 2014 post on Renegade Athletics



OT BC wins over west hills dec 18 2015

BC goes into overtime against West Hills. Dec 18, 2015

Last night Frank Gornick, Chancellor of West Hills, sent me a photo of the Basketball score board as BC took on West Hills in overtime.  The Renegades won 97-89!  Coach Hughes, you rock!

Check out the story Gades win OT Thriller at West Hills–Coalinga  by Francis Mayer on our athletics website: 


As we move into the holidays most of our fall sports are also wrapping up their season schedules.

The BC volleyball team scored a rousing first-round playoff victory over Palomar College before eventually falling in a tough four-set match to number three ranked El Camino during the second round of the Southern California Regionals over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Meanwhile, the women’s soccer team had a great midseason run of their own before a late score knocked them out of playoff contention.

And then there’s the Bakersfield College wrestling team that features some of the finest junior college wrestling talent in California. The team started November by hosting their first SEWC Conference Championship Tournament in years — and they didn’t waste the opportunity.

150911-BC-WREST-035Five Renegade grapplers claimed conference titles in their weight class — the most of any college — and two earned Most Valuable Wrestler honors as BC placed third overall on their home mats.

Conference crowns were won by Norman Abas (125 lbs.), Torrey Casper (133 lbs.), Jacob Maas (165 lbs.), Zack Mitchell (184 lbs.) and Jose Robledo (197 lbs.).  Meanwhile, Norman was named Most Valuable Wrestler among competitors in the lower weight classes, while Jacob took that honor for the upper weight classes.

Casper is an example of the wonderful things that unfold in community college athletics.  After a promising high school wrestling career at Bakersfield’s Frontier High School, Casper fathered a child and took a break from school to work and support his young family.  But the desire to complete his education and athletic career never went away, so after building up his financial reserves laboring in the oil fields, he returned to Bakersfield College.

IMG_2423Then there’s Norman Abas. This Fresno native is the nephew of a pair of global wrestling legends, but he decided to come to Bakersfield College to make his own mark.

It’s hard to question his decision, considering BC’s exceptional coaches may be the most highly decorated staff in the state.


BC Wrestling coach

Co-head coach Brett Clark won a state championship at BC in 2002, then launched a return to the mat earlier this year.  Obviously, it was a good decision as Brett went on to win National Championships in Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling before competing in the World Championships in Greece last October, earning a silver medal in Freestyle and a bronze in Greco-Roman.  Meanwhile, Brett’s coaching partner, co-head coach Marcos Austin, is a black belt holder in both Brazilian Jujitsu and Judo, while assistant coach Joe Espejo won the State Heavyweight title for BC in 2004. Is it any wonder why some of the best young wrestlers in Kern County want to continue their athletic careers under the direction of these men?

These latest developments are just the latest stellar chapter in what’s been an incredible half-century for the BC wrestling program — check out some of the impressive stats the team has accumulated over the years (and special thanks to Mike Stricker, president of local wrestling support organization the Coyote Club, for these numbers).


Fifty (55) Years of Bakersfield College Renegade Wrestling

1960-1961    Harry Kane    13-8    .619%

1962-1964    Vic Linkog    13-6    .684%

1964-1985    Bruce Pfutzenreuter    264-81-4    .765%

1985-1987    Steve Nickell    5-12    .243%

1987-2014    Bill Kalivas    208-72-2    .654%

2014     Brett Clark-Marcos Austin


1969 State Champions

2003 State Champions

2004 State Champions


Renegade Wrestling Greats

Art Chavez – South High, BC, San Francisco State – National Freestyle and Greco Roman Champion, US World Team, Olympic Team

Rockey Rasley – South High, BC, Oregon State – US World Team, Played 8 years in the NFL

Joe Nigos – Delano High, BC, Cal Poly – US World Team

Bruce Burnett – North High, BC, Idaho State – US National, World and Olympic Team Head Coach

Bill Van Worth – South High, BC, Humboldt State, CSUB – Pan American Games Champion

Franc Affentrange – Shafter High, BC, CSUB – 2 Time 3rd NCAA Division I Tournament

Florencio Rocha – Bakersfield High, BC, CSUB – 4th NCAA Division I Tournament

Pfutzenreuter – Inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, California Wrestling Hall of Fame, USA Wrestling Hall of Fame California Chapter

Kalivas – Inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame


Vision for the Valley: Kern County Leaders Look to the Future at BC


Sonya Christian

Whether you’re titans of industry, learned academics or pre-schoolers on the playground, there’s a simple rule that holds true — talking through problems is usually the most effective path to workable, sustaining solutions.


Unfortunately, we’re all so busy with our daily lives (especially this time of year) that we have a hard enough time identifying the problems, let alone crafting the complex answers needed to settle them.

So how do we as a community solve the multi-layered puzzle of addressing Kern County’s critical infrastructure needs?


Richard Beene (TBC), Nick Ortiz (Chamber), Victoria Rome (NRDC),    Tupper Hull (WSPA)

Well, there are few experiences more energizing than listening to a collection of very smart people talk about very important things — so BC was thrilled to host the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Vision for the Valley summit this week.

Nick Ortiz and our friends at the Chamber really outdid themselves, creating a half-day symposium that assembled some of our area’s most knowledgeable business, legislative and analytical minds to examine issues we all face every day (whether we think about them or not) — issues around energy, water, agriculture, housing, transportation and their interlocking impacts on Kern County’s economy.

Before I get into the content of the summit’s multiple panels, a quick congratulations to the Chamber and our team at BC for the great visual presentation on the Simonsen Performing Arts Center stage.  From the Scandinavian type furniture to the backdrop to the impressive lighting package, the production crew behind the summit did a phenomenal job.

As for the panels themselves…well, delving into “big think” topics like this can be an enormous challenge, but the summit’s roster of insightful speakers — under the well-orchestrated direction of moderators Richard Beene and Louis Amestoy of the Bakersfield Californian — crystallized the major points around these complex issues, making them all very relatable.  Elizabeth Sanchez did a piece in the Californian on the summit which can be found at


The Energy, Sustainability and the Economy panel, for instance, brought together natural opponents for a spirited discussion of where the oil industry is headed, particularly focusing on its impact on Kern County, the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of the state’s transportation needs.

Much of the conversation with conservationist advocate Victoria Rome with the National Resources Defense Council and Western States Petroleum Association vice president Tupper Hull centered on state regulation, both its impact on oil producers and whether California was going too far — or not far enough — in overseeing the industry’s activities.

While Victoria was encouraged that California’s 140,000 electric and hybrid cars on the road today could hit the 1 million benchmark by 2030, both agreed the state’s need for oil would likely remain strong for years to come.

“We need to stop looking for simplistic answers to complex questions,” Tupper said.

water panel dec 2015 cropped

John Burtchaell (Wells Fargo), DeeDee D’Adamo (State Water Resources Control), Lois Henry (TBC), Louis Amestoy (TBC)

That was a theme that held true throughout the day, including a deep-dive look at the impact of California’s drought on our groundwater demand during the Agriculture and Water Resources panel. DeeDee D’Adamo, a board member with the State Water Resources Control Board, defended and explained, and in some cases, commiserated over the state’s water use policies. Lois Henry made the issues clear in a pragmatic and a “let’s cut to the chase” approach of addressing these complex issues.

Water use in California has reduced by 27 percent in the five months since emergency conservation regulations began in June.  While there was general agreement that it will be a long-term,  multi-year effort to replenish state water reserves, there was a sense that some form of permanent conservation measures would remain in place even once the drought is declared over, helping to protect the state from future water shortage issues.


Louis Amestoy (The Bakersfield Californian), Greg Bielli (Tejon Ranch),   Bill Thomas (former Congressman), Dave Cogdill (former State Senator)

The third and final panel of the day, a round-table talk about housing, land use and transportation, was also a strong contender for highlight of the day, particularly thanks to the spirited engagement and effusive charm of panelist, retired congressman and luminary BC faculty emeritus Bill Thomas.

I wasn’t here during Bill’s teaching career on this very campus from 1965 to 1974, but those nine years as a political science faculty were part of the beginnings of one of Kern County’s most storied political careers.  Bill’s 27 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, highlighted by his chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, grant him a unique perspective on issues that few others could offer.

One of Bill’s political passions is transportation — and like the true statesmen he is, Bill didn’t hold back, crusading for Kern County to keep pushing through apathy and threats of adjudication to complete the scores of local transportation projects undertaken by his namesake Thomas Roads Improvement Program (TRIP).

Ret. Rep. Bill Thomas and former state Sen. Dave Cogdill on the Housing, Land Use and Transportation panel

Ret. Rep.Bill Thomas, former state Sen.Dave Cogdill 

For those who don’t know the history, TRIP has been overseeing the use of $630 million in federal funds secured by Thomas in 2005 to tackle Bakersfield’s specific transportation problems.

He repeatedly framed it as transportation issues that arise when an “east-west” county resides within a “north-south” state. The projects include the completed construction of the Westside Parkway, the State Route 178/Fairfax Road Interchange, the State Route 58 gap closure and the State Route 178/Morning Drive Interchange.

Right now, one of TRIP’s top priorities is to begin work on their largest project, the Centennial Corridor, which will ultimately connect State Route 99 and Interstate 5.  But Thomas warned about the danger of obstructionist attorneys using CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) statutes to slow Corridor construction via unnecessary litigation.

“Adjudication takes a long time and costs a lot of money,” Thomas said. “That’s their way of trying to control the outcome.”

Bill also made some news during the summit, coming out in support of Kern County voters approving a half-cent tax measure that would mark Kern as a “self-help” county, earmarking funds for future county transportation projects.  More importantly, the designation would significantly boost Kern County’s ability to secure state and federal money to carry such projects to completion.

As a staunch Republican acutely aware of Kern County voters’ pervasive anti-taxation stance, Bill told the crowd he understood initial bristling to the idea — but warned the cost of not attaining “self-help” status and losing out on federal transportation dollars to other areas made passing the tax infinitely more cost-effective for the county and its residents.

Talking through water regulations and oil production restrictions and transportation funding can seem like dry policy wonk chatter, capable of making anyone’s eyes glaze over. But at the end of the day, all of these critical conversations come back to some simple questions — how does this affect the people of Kern County and how do we make everyone’s lives better through our collective decisions?


Sonya Christian (BC), Mary Jo Pasek (BC), Karen Goh (Garden Pathways), Michael Turnipseed (Kern Tax)

It was wonderful to see the community out at the college to engage in these discussions. Events like the Vision for the Valley summit help point us toward ways of enriching the life of every single Kern County resident…and we at BC couldn’t be happier to play our part in making events like this happen.

Ramon Puga Cropped Dec 7 2015

Ramon Puga from BC. Helping with the take down


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