Columnist Olivia Garcia

Much praise goes to the Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation, which held its 25th annual Officer of the Year Awards Dinner Friday in what has become a ceremony of inspiration, heartfelt moments and a celebration of our local men and women who faithfully serve and protect our communities beyond the call of duty.

The foundation is a nonprofit that works independently to support local law enforcement agencies through various means, including purchasing additional equipment that a certain department may lack due to a limited budget, said Sofie Zimmermann, a KCLEF board member.

In addition, the foundation raises scholarship money for college students studying careers in law enforcement.

"The Officer of the Year Awards is our biggest event of the year, where we highlight individuals who keep our communities safe and sacrifice their lives everyday in the process," said Zimmermann who is married to Kevin Zimmermann, a chief deputy with the Kern County Sheriff's Office. "I love this event. It shows me what great men and women we have in the line of service."

Among the list was California Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Ingram, who received the Exceptional Officer of the Year Award, while two local officers were honored with the Medal of Valor Award. They were: Kern County Sheriff's Office Senior Deputy William Hinkle and Bakersfield Police Department Detective John Talbot.

In addition, local businesses owners and individuals who are supporters of local law enforcement were recognized. Randy Harden of Jim's Towing and Randy Winkle of Randy's Towing were both presented with the Businessmen of the Year Award. Arnold Johansen earned the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The foundation also honored three individuals -- Robert Cassas, Jose Cassas and Kathy Harrington -- with the Citizen of the Year Award. And in a new tribute, the foundation established the Wayne Ketcherside Humanitarian Service Award to honor Ketcherside for his longtime service and dedication with the sheriff's department.

On the same evening, the foundation honored Alexandria Quiora of North High School, Tori Zimmermann of Liberty High School and Kelsey Taylor of Cal State Bakersfield, with scholarship awards.

One of the event's highlights was the Officer of the Year Award, which went to Sgt. Mark Brown of the Kern County sheriff's department.

Lt. David Barker nominated Brown for his work at the Frazier Park Substation, which services the mountain communities that include Frazier Park, Fort Tejon, Lebec, Pine Mountain Club and Lake of the Woods. He noted that Brown has shown his dedication to the Frazier Park area through his involvement in developing patrol deputies, establishing a strong relationship in allied agency and community partnerships, working with El Tejon Unified School District, participating in public events and assisting in COPS/POP projects. All of these contributions reflect his commitment and "personal involvement that goes above and beyond the call of duty," Barker wrote.

Congrats to everyone recognized.

Living with cystic fibrosis

It's still a time away. However, mark your calendars for "An Evening at the Art Museum Cocktail Mixer" to be held 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Metro Galleries -- a first annual event to honor local children and adults living with cystic fibrosis.

Event chairwoman Tiffany Fischer says the mixer will showcase art from those affected by the genetic disease as well as supporters of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation who are looking to help the cause. The displayed art will be auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is organizing the event. Fischer promises music, appetizers, great artwork and plenty of fun.

Fischer has cystic fibrosis and says it is a genetic disease that scars an individual's lungs and suppresses the immune system.

"It affects all your organs, such as your pancreas and sinuses," she said. "I received a double lung transplant on October 30, 2009. Even with the transplant, I still have complications. My quality of life has improved, but I still struggle daily with this disease and have to have frequent stays in the hospital due to this."

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is currently looking for sponsors for the event as well as auction items. She also mentioned that the foundation is also seeking the involvement and support of local artists who are willing to donate a piece of their art.

Tickets to the event are $50 per person and $80 a couple. For more information, please contact Fischer at or by phone at 204-3019.

Latina Leader founder

Congrats to Linda Quinones-Vaughan, who was recently honored as the founder of Latina Leaders of Kern County. The nonprofit organization was established by Quinones-Vaughan 15 years ago to support local Latina women and youth. The group has continued to thrive and expand over the years, reaching more Latinas for its adult leadership and youth leadership programs, said Norma Rojas-Mora, president of the organization.

Quinones-Vaughan, an investigator with State Farm Insurance Co. who has worked in communications and public relations for 25 years, accepted the award, praised the group for its growing role in the community, and thanked her family, which she credits for supporting her in her drive to give back to the community.

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at

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