Shafter used to seem so far away. Until I started working there.
In nearly six decades of living in Kern County, every city outside of Bakersfield seemed that way to me at first. I have learned the distance is not that great, either physically or philosophically.
I left a long banking career last October to become the business development director for the city of Shafter. It was my latest major life event since arriving in Kern County at the tender age of 5, courtesy of my dad’s transfer to Edwards Air Force Base.
North Edwards was home when I graduated from Boron High School before heading to Bakersfield College, where I earned a journalism degree and met my wife, Vicki, a graduate of Kern Valley High School in Lake Isabella.
Bakersfield has been home since 1973, except for one financially strapped semester at Fresno State that brought me back to work multiple jobs, including a year as a KUZZ reporter. Vicki and I got married the following year and began our banking careers.
Though always based with Bakersfield banks, I also worked with offices in Delano, McFarland, Wasco, Tehachapi, Mojave, Arvin, Ridgecrest and Shafter, racking up serious miles on Highways 14, 58, 65, 99, 119, 178, 221 and 395.
Today, it’s Highway 43 every day to City Hall in Shafter. It’s my shortest commute ever and true isolation from daily activities in Bakersfield. Lunch is no longer Uricchio’s, Sequoia or Luigi’s, but El Michoacano, La Imperial or Tin Cup. Great food, new ZIP code. Bakersfield is now where we find prospects for business expansion into Shafter.
By the way, is there a patriotic display more deservedly acclaimed than Shafter’s 3rd of July Fireworks Show? At least 3,000 people attended this year’s event and, in that ensuing traffic jam, many were visitors headed back to Bakersfield.
Our indisputable Kern County nexus is Bakersfield, with all the accompanying resources and responsibilities. I’m learning to appreciate their burden of operating one of the largest cities in America.
However, I have also seen government leaders from Shafter, Delano, Wasco, McFarland, Arvin, Tehachapi and other cities demonstrate the grit behind the grind to get things done in their communities. Smaller cities have smaller staffs with more expansive duties, requiring them to be nimble, nifty and knowledgeable.
I have developed a healthy respect for Kern County’s leaders and all county department staff members for the effort it takes to get results. I also more deeply appreciate the supportive expertise of Kern Economic Development Corporation.
Though each city has inherent capabilities, community priorities and specific challenges, all our cities share the common pride of being in Kern County. Many leaders do collaborate and communicate because our cities don’t always compete. Although Bakersfield and the surrounding cities will always have differences and distances, none of us truly stand alone.
We are all still Kern County and I pray that bond will keep us working and growing together for years to come.
Bob Meadows became business development director for the city of Shafter in October 2018 after nearly 40 years in the banking industry. His extensive community involvement includes various local nonprofits. Bob won the 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award for Business Person of the Year. The views expressed are his own.