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Leticia Perez

Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez, new chair of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, recognized the county's successes and challenges at Wednesday's State of the County Dinner.

Perez hailed the county's commitment to alternative energy, animal welfare, agriculture, the safety of county communities and emerging markets like the commercial space industry in the Mojave Desert.

But she also acknowledged the serious issues -- from the drought troubled agriculture industry to the financial trauma at county-owned Kern Medical Center.

"In 2013 we discovered that for many years, KMC had been spending far more and collecting far less money than it reported," Perez told attendees at the dinner, held this year at the Marriott hotel. "Something had to be done. We've done it, and we're doing it."

She said budget cutbacks across the county have helped fill this year's $13 million hole in KMC's spending plan.

She touted Kern County Animal Services and General Services workers who moved the county's sheltering operation to industrial property on Fruitvale Avenue after the county was evicted from its old shelter on South Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Perez said the county is dedicated to long-term animal welfare solutions, putting $250,000 into spay-neuter surgeries in areas with high animal overpopulation.

She also touted the county's effort to bring law enforcement and community-based treatment organizations together in a partnership to fight the drug addiction and mental health challenges that keep thousands of low-level criminals circulating through jails.

And she praised job training partnerships between the county and industry.

The goal is to make Kern County a better place to live.

"Tonight as we celebrate the people of Kern County," Perez said, "let us also rededicate ourselves to making our community a place we are eager to call home."