The Bakersfield City Council opted to start from scratch in selecting someone to fill the vacancy on the city’s sales tax oversight committee.
During its Wednesday meeting, the City Council unanimously agreed to direct the city clerk’s office to begin a new recruitment process to replace Pritesh Patel, who resigned last month due to other pressing responsibilities, rather than select someone from the last list of finalists.
“I don’t want to disenfranchise anybody within the community,” said Vice Mayor Chris Parlier. “By going out to the community again, there might be people that are interested in it now that weren’t before. In the transparency of the process, I would ask that we put it out to the public again.”
The city said prior to the meeting that if the council chose this option, the recruitment period could last up to two weeks, after which the City Council would vote on a replacement at a future meeting.
Because of this, Patel’s replacement will not be able to participate in the committee’s upcoming meetings, including its next one on March 11.
Besides starting the process over again, the city’s other option was to appoint one of the finalists from the last round of voting on Feb. 6. These finalists were Melanie Farmer, Andrew Flores, Sally Herald and Elsa Martinez.
Prior to the meeting, finalist Linda Jay said she was no longer interested in serving on the committee, which would have left a decision between the other four.
The City Council’s member selection for the Public Safety/Vital City Services Oversight Committee has come under fire recently from individuals and organizations who criticized the council for only appointing one woman to the nine-member committee.
Mary Helen Barro, who ran for Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s 23rd Congressional District seat last year, spoke at the meeting in favor of selecting a female finalist for the committee, specifically Downtown Business Association President/CEO Melanie Farmer.
“I know there are many qualified people, but I would like you to consider Melanie Farmer because she represents the small businesses in Bakersfield on the DBA and so many of the other (finalists) represent major corporations,” she said.
Women’s March Kern County Executive Director Kimberly Kirchmer also spoke at the meeting on behalf of her organization and others including the Latina Leaders of Kern County and the League of Women Voters.
These groups and more gathered at City Hall last month to criticize the council’s selection of the nearly all-male committee. With the opening left by Patel, the groups requested that the city fill the seat with a woman, whether that be one of the finalists or a new applicant.
“Our priority is that the current opening be filled with a highly qualified woman, like many of those that did apply,” she said. “This we feel would more equitably represent our community and help guide decisions that will have a significant impact on the city of Bakersfield, both in the immediate future and for years to come.”