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Ryan Alsop is Kern County’s chief administrative officer.

November’s issue celebrates outstanding men in our community who are dedicated to our region’s success. One of them is Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s chief administrative officer, who’s changing the way people feel about government, those who manage it, and the service it provides.

“Making county government, particularly my office, accessible to regular people from all areas of this large county is important to me. Sometimes it’s the smaller things that have the biggest impact, and delivering these things for people requires listening, understanding, empathy and immediate execution. This is being a public servant,” he said.

Alsop was appointed CAO in 2017, tasked with implementing policy directives of our elected Board of Supervisors. However, his journey to one of the most high-profile jobs in Kern County began with a modest start.

Born and raised in Bakersfield, Alsop graduated Highland High School and enrolled at Bakersfield College while working both as a waiter and welder. From a young age, he was engrained in the heartbeat of this community while pursuing his education. He went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree from CSU Bakersfield where his interest in public service was first ignited thanks to a recommendation from one of his professors.

“It was my first 'real job' as the legislative staffer for the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, that was really a catalyst for my life’s work in government affairs. I learned there is no more important, meaningful work being done anywhere, than the work being done in local government,” Alsop said.

After graduating from CSUB, Alsop acquired his master’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C., subsequently landing high-profile industry jobs such as director of external affairs for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and assistant chief executive officer of Los Angeles County. After years honing his craft elsewhere, fate brought Alsop back to his hometown.

“My parents and siblings live here, and I have reconnected with countless friends since my time back. Working in this role, working to improve our community and our county, has been among the most rewarding pursuits of my career,” he said.

Currently, Alsop spends his days tackling a variety of sectors including budget and finance, public safety, homelessness, and economic development. While these big-ticket items often make headlines, the magic in Alsop’s leadership stems from the way he touches people’s lives through engaging the smallest of requests with a gentle, listening ear, delivering solutions to directly improve the quality of life for residents.

“I’ve got to say, the most rewarding aspect of my job as CAO is doing things not as large and complex in scope that have a meaningful, tangible and positive impact. Often these are small things, a simple change in policy, a phone call, a listening session, a new streetlight, a new sidewalk… it’s these small and specific things brought up by individuals and groups in our county, that often seem to matter most, above all else,” Alsop said.

Throughout the past nearly five years, Alsop has navigated some of the most challenging and complex issues in Kern County’s history, such as guiding the county through an annual fiscal deficit by proactively balancing the county’s budget, working to improve compensation and conditions for county employees, and prioritizing investment in our county’s first responders.

Alsop also spearheaded Kern County’s first low-barrier shelter, the M Street Navigation Center, taking a proactive approach in combating the root cause of homelessness by creating an accessible program dedicated to job placement and permanent housing.

Additionally, Alsop has invested deeply in Kern County parks throughout his tenure by improving our public spaces, including current plans to equip all Kern County parks with free WiFi. However, one of his biggest accomplishments thus far is the groundbreaking way he handled COVID-19.

True to Alsop’s mission of making government accessible, he instated daily live COVID-19 press briefings as an innovative solution to creating unity among our county, speaking truth to residents, and providing reassurance and hope during an unprecedented time.

Now, Alsop is looking forward with the onset of his new strategic plan focused on accomplishing three primary goals within the next five years.

“First, we will enhance quality of life for all Kern County residents by making it among the safest communities in the Central Valley. Second, we will model excellence in managing our business and workforce. Third, we will grow a thriving, resilient regional economy by being the best place to start a business in the state and supporting our position as a national energy and agricultural leader.”

While Alsop’s outline for Kern County’s trajectory is important, possibly his most profound goal stems from the experiences he’s carried with him throughout his journey, dating back to roots.

“I want to leave this county better off than it was before I was appointed CAO. I want our Board of Supervisors to feel like they made a good decision and investment in bringing me on. I want our residents to feel that the job I’ve done here was value-added and meaningful in their lives,” he said.