There’s something special about the change in seasons. Cooler air, a fresh start, children (finally) back in school. When I think about our community’s resilience over the past few years, one pillar of strength comes to mind: women.

More than half of Kern County employees are women, which is also reflected in the county’s leadership, as 57% of management is female. From providing services to our most vulnerable populations to championing residents across dozens of departments, thoughtful, kind, experienced women are excelling at serving our community.

Kern County Department of Human Services Director Dena Murphy is responsible for ensuring resources are provided to those in the community who need it most while managing a department of nearly 2,000 employees.

Elizabeth Chavez, director of Kern's Child Support Services, is another fantastic female leader making a difference in the lives of local families. She spearheads a department dedicated to ensuring Kern County children receive the financial and medical resources necessary for their well-being.

Lorelei Oviatt is the first female director of Kern's Planning and Natural Resources Department. She's held the position for 11 years, advocating for Kern County’s economic vitality, supporting resource conservation, and serving the diverse needs of residents.

Elsa Martinez has been Kern County’s chief financial officer for many years, managing the county's $3.5 billion budget. She’s responsible for allocating finances throughout the county, dispersing funds resourcefully to best provide resources to residents.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been at the forefront of informing the community through the work of Brynn Carrigan, director of Kern County Public Health Services, Michelle Corson, Public Health’s public relations officer, and senior epidemiologist Kim Hernandez. Their commitment to providing information and support throughout this challenging time is something to be deeply admired.

Since 2018, County Counsel Margo Raison has led her department with experience and intellect, providing legal services to Kern County, its officers, employees, boards, commissions and other agencies.

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director Stacy Kuwahara leads arguably one of the most essential Kern County departments right now, addressing mental health and substance use as our community works to reduce homelessness.

Andie Sullivan, the Kern County Library director, pushes forward as all 22 branches are set to reopen, promoting education and literacy in our community.

Teresa Hitchcock leads Employer’s Training Resources, providing job development programs to residents, a vital service especially for those who lost out on work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pam Singh, Kern County’s first female public defender, oversees the provision of legal services to those who cannot afford their own. She has been with the department for almost 17 years and has served as public defender for more than four.

Kathleen Krause, the clerk of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, is invaluable in providing exceptional customer service to the county and its citizens while preserving the past, recording the present, and providing accessibility to official county records and information.

There are so many influential, respected women to be revered within Kern County, including our elected female officials.

District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer has been with the department for 37 years and was elected in June of 2018. Zimmer personally handled numerous high-profile cases, including the longest gang trial in our community’s history. Zimmer leads her office with a strong commitment to reducing violent crimes, providing better services to victims in rural areas, and keeping the public informed about legislative changes that affect public safety.

Supervisor Leticia Perez represents District 5, encompassing downtown, east and southeast Bakersfield. Elected to her current role in 2012, Perez has spent decades in public service, dedicated to building a quality of life where our children are prepared to compete in the workforce, businesses can flourish, and our families can strive toward upward mobility.

Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard has been the registrar of voters since 2013 and has more than 30 years of experience with Kern County. She leads her department in facilitating Kern's voting process, encompassing everything from elections to precinct records and maps.

I hope the passion, dedication and integrity of the women in Kern County’s workforce, including the thousands of female employees serving our community, provide a sense of hope in a world that can seem uneasy. These many talented professionals working today will certainly achieve their goals of building a better tomorrow.