Will quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Derek Carr do well on the Gridiron come next college football season?
Will Jen Woodard and her county colleagues make nice with the city and hammer out a joint deal that streamlines animal control services in metro Bakersfield and reduces the shockingly sad rates of dog and cat euthanization?
And will reputedly frugal Rudy Salas go along to get along with state Assembly Democrats or challenge his party colleagues on money matters?
Those are among the questions we hope to see answered from our 2013 list of People to Watch.
Title: Unstoppable amputee, aka "Comeback Kid"
This 9-year-old boy caught Bakersfield's attention last year with his effervescent personality while he awaited the amputation of his left leg, which had been rendered useless by a rare condition. Ethan's father found his son's attitude so inspiring that he shared his story in hopes of encouraging others.
Today, Ethan is getting around great on crutches after his October amputation, even playing soccer. He's caught up on his school work and hopes to return to his fourth grade classroom at Endeavour Elementary School as soon as possible.
In the new year, Ethan is looking forward to his return to the classroom, running and "being a normal kid."
"I feel like I'm going to be able to do much more things than I did the last couple years of my life," he said.
Name: Jen Woodard
Title: Newly hired director of Kern County Animal Control
Woodard stepped into a maelstrom when she took on this position in the first week of October. The county has long suffered from high euthanasia rates and has only stutter-stepped toward mapping out a plan to reduce the population of unwanted pets. Not to mention the ongoing bickering between the city of Bakersfield and the county over costs.
Woodard came to Kern after years as chief of the Best Friends Animal Society pet adoption center in Los Angeles and past manager of the Rancho Cucamonga animal shelter. Local animal activists had high hopes when she first arrived. But a dust-up in November over a spay/neuter contract had many wondering if Woodard could salvage the tenuous city/county alliance and move the shelter forward.
The county spends about $6 million a year on animal control, which was recently moved out from under the Public Health Department and made into its own, independent department.
The challenges Woodard faces are immense and, no doubt, her every move will be scrutinized.
Name: Derek Carr
Title: Fresno State quarterback
It was a good 2012 for Carr, a Bakersfield Christian graduate and younger brother of Stockdale graduate and New York Giants quarterback David Carr. But 2013 has the potential to be even better.
Carr had thrown for 3,742 yards, 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions for Fresno State heading into the Bulldogs' Hawaii Bowl appearance on Dec. 24. His efforts, combined with those of Bakersfield High graduate and Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas, helped the Bulldogs to a share of the Mountain West Conference championship. Carr was named the MWC's Offensive Player of the Year. (Thomas was the Defensive Player of the Year).
While Thomas will enter the NFL Draft, Carr returns in 2013 for an encore -- and perhaps more. If Fresno State has another successful season and Carr is again at the forefront, don't be surprised to see him enter at least the fringe of the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Names: Terry Maxwell and Bob Smith
Titles: New Bakersfield city councilmen
The second time was a charm for Maxwell, the owner of T.L. Maxwell's restaurant downtown. He was unable to unseat Councilwoman Sue Benham when he ran in 2004, but won his second attempt for the Ward 2 seat in November.
With the number of big issues facing the downtown area in coming years, not the least of it the widening of 24th Street and the Centennial Corridor freeway project, it will be interesting to see if Maxwell will be a contrarian on the council. He's already been a vocal opponent of the plans to widen 24th Street, a Thomas Roads Improvement Program project that the city council, in part, has to approve.
Smith, a civil engineer and founder of the organization Bike Bakersfield, has long made better bike paths in Bakersfield a passion, encouraging the city to update its bike routes and apply for grants to do so.
Smith ran his campaign for the Ward 4 seat partly on the platform of safer streets for everyone, not just bike riders. Whether he'll face roadblocks to expanding the city's bike routes and what other issues he'll focus on will be revealed as he fills the remaining two years of the term of David Couch, whom he replaced on the council.
Name: Rudy Salas
Title: 32nd District state Assemblyman
After half a four-year term on the Bakersfield City Council, Salas quickly moved up by getting elected to the Assembly in November. Salas' win helped Democrats achieve a supermajority in the lower chamber, which gives them the ability to pass major legislation like tax increases with little difficulty.
But it's not a given that Salas will vote with other Democrats, according to several people who know how he works, including a onetime boss, former Democratic state Sen. Dean Florez. Florez and others have said Salas is apt to stand alone, especially where spending is concerned.
Take, for example, his opposition to Proposition 30, the tax increase measure Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown pushed so strongly for and voters approved.
Meanwhile, city council members back in Bakersfield have reminded Salas not to forget his roots and to continue helping the city from afar.
Name: Timothy R. "Tim" Kustic
Title: State oil and gas supervisor
He may work in Sacramento, but Kustic is among Kern County's most influential people by virtue of his authority over California's oil industry. A former Bakersfield field engineer with close to 30 years of experience at the state Department of Conservation, Kustic stepped into one of the toughest jobs in California when in late 2011 he was named to replace embattled oil regulator Elena Miller.
Gov. Jerry Brown ousted Miller in early November 2011 after Kern County politicians joined industry executives in blaming her for a slowdown in oil field injection permits.
Now, with the injection permits running more smoothly (and quickly), Kustic has turned his attention to some of the state's thorniest regulatory matters, including the question of how to regulate "fracking," or hydraulic fracturing, the high-pressure injections behind the nation's energy boom. Also on his to-do list: overhauling the state's approach to environmental reviews of oil projects, responding to federal concerns about California's underground injection work, and crafting new cyclic-steaming regulations to avoid a repeat of the sinkhole that killed a Chevron supervisor last year near Taft.
Name: Konrad Moore
Title: Interim Kern County public defender
Moore was appointed interim public defender and seems the most likely candidate for the permanent position, following the death of former Public Defender Art Titus in early October. Moore had served as chief assistant public defender since 2011, and became chief deputy public defender in 2008 after joining the office in 2000.
In his new position, Moore will supervise about 60 attorneys who handled more than 35,000 cases last year. He spent a year in private practice before coming to Kern, and worked for six years as a deputy district attorney in Stanislaus and Monterey counties.
Titus said in August that he couldn't think of a better successor than Moore. He described Moore as honest and adept at public presentations, and also someone who had gained the trust of the county Board of Supervisors and performed his job with excellence.
Name: Cody Kessler
Title: USC quarterback
After a redshirt season, Kessler, a Centennial High graduate, saw the field for the first time at USC in 2012, but usually only as a holder on place-kicks. With four-year starter Matt Barkley headed to the NFL, however, Kessler will be able to compete for the starting job for the first time in spring practice.
His main competition will be Max Wittek, who started USC's game against top-ranked Notre Dame when Barkley was injured, and highly touted incoming freshman Max Browne. Should Kessler win the job, he'll immediately become the face of one of college football's most recognizable brands.
If he doesn't? It's not uncommon to see young quarterbacks who don't get a chance to start to transfer to another school for an opportunity elsewhere.
Name: Roger Perez
Title: Executive director, Kern County Museum
He's never worked at a museum before, but Roger Perez believes he has what it takes to help the Kern County Museum realize its full potential.
"My background isn't in museums," the 40-year-old father of two told The Californian. "It's selling a great product."
The former marketing and creative services director for the North of the River Recreation and Park District was tapped to head up the museum in October following the resignation of Randall Hayes, who stepped down after less than a year on the job.
Perez wants to use his experience in media, Web design, marketing, television production, social media and community relations to "remind people of what's already here," a gleaming gem, he said, that doesn't need to be recut, only dusted off and polished.
His first task, he said, is to create a comprehensive marketing plan, something the museum hasn't had for some time. Fortunately, the raw materials are already in place.
Black Gold, the museum's oil exhibit, is the best of its kind in the West, he said, and the Lori Brock Children's Discovery Center continues to be a great way for families to spend the day. And speaking of gems, a visit to Pioneer Village is like taking a trip into our history, but in a way that makes it fun for children, too.
His kids love it, Perez said, referring to his 4- and 8-year-old boys.
"They're my test audience," he said, laughing. "The best research you can have."
Name: Kenneth "Ziggy" Siegfried
Title: Cal State Bakersfield senior associate athletic director for development and major gifts
Quite simply, CSUB must generate more money to be competitive in its Division I athletic program.
More money is needed for athletic scholarships. As student fees constantly rise, it takes more money simply to offset those fee increases, and money beyond what's being raised now is essential to ensure more athletic scholarships can be given.
In comparison to the West Coast Division I programs CSUB competes against, the Roadrunners are woefully under-funded.
And taking it beyond scholarships: CSUB's athletic facilities are in desperate need of improvement. Many are not up to the basic requirements Division I programs demand and need if they are going to recruit better athletes to the university.
Siegfried was at the University of Memphis when he was hired by CSUB.
His challenge is easy to explain but a tough one to accomplish: to generate more money than the athletic program has ever raised before. His success in this venture is essential if CSUB is going to be competitive with other mid-sized programs from the West and elsewhere.