Harvey L. Hall, the longest-serving former mayor of Bakersfield, founder of Hall Ambulance Service Inc. and community champion, died Saturday. He was 77.
The community is remembering his passion, kindness and unwavering positivity, along with his advocacy for “Unity in Our Community,” a phrase he often used.
Former Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall died Saturday morning. He was well-known for spreading the mantra of "Unity in Our Community" as he he…
It reflected his desire to recognize the accomplishments of others and celebrate the city’s diverse population. Among his highest priorities were advancing city beautification, combating homelessness, fostering sister-city relationships and inspiring the city’s youth.
“Today, my heart is heavy with his loss. The city of Bakersfield is mourning his loss,” current Mayor Karen Goh said. “He was an outstanding community leader and a beloved friend. He gave his heart, time and resources to our city. He wanted to make every day a better one for our community.”
Hall became ill in mid-April, when doctors diagnosed him with what a Hall Ambulance news release called an “untreatable and rapidly progressing disease.” The diagnosis was confirmed at an out-of-town medical center on May 8 and he had been hospitalized, the release said.
He returned home May 12.
The cause of Hall’s death was not shared by the company.
“Learning of his passing is like getting hit with a ton of bricks,” said Mark Corum, longtime director of media services for Hall Ambulance. “He tended to bring out the best in people and make people want to get involved in the community. He just loved helping people celebrate their accomplishments.”
Hall’s death comes just a few weeks after he had stepped down as president of Hall Ambulance, the company he founded in 1971. His wife, Lavonne, was named president.
Hall served as the 25th mayor of Bakersfield from 2001 through 2016. He decided not to seek a fifth term. Goh succeeded him in January 2017.
Goh said she first got to know Hall when she moved to Bakersfield in 2005, interacting with him at various community events. When Goh became mayor, she said, Hall imparted advice she has tried to follow ever since.
“Mayor Hall has an outstanding legacy. When I stepped into office, I knew it would be big shoes to fill,” she said. “He encouraged me to focus on the positive aspects of our community. He was always one who focused on the positive.”
Goh said Hall was involved in many parts of the community and was well-loved by people. She said this was because people could see the love and passion he had for Bakersfield.
“I think we’ll remember him for the excellence he displayed in so many areas and in his expression of love for Bakersfield,” she said. “He made our city a better place, and I want to continue that legacy.”
Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy said he grew to know Hall well during the 16 years he served as mayor.
“His passing is sad and unfortunate,” he said. “He was a very kind and generous man. As mayor, he was very supportive and absolutely diligent about representation and getting around the community to as many events as he could. He was always upbeat and positive. He will be missed.”
Jacquie Sullivan, a longtime City Council member who worked frequently with Hall on the council during his time as mayor, said she was shocked to hear about his death on Saturday.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s gone. I have admired him for years,” she said.
Sullivan said Hall was a great mayor who did a lot to help the city.
“I know he loved being mayor,” she said. “He looked the part, acted the part, felt the part. He loved the city of Bakersfield and took his role very seriously. He always set a good example and was an excellent role model.”
While Hall is known most widely for his service as mayor, his ambulance company, which provides 911 paramedic service to 88 percent of Kern County’s population, has also had a significant impact.
When Hall founded his company in 1971, he initially ran it out of his residence. However, it wasn’t always his plan to get into the ambulance business. He originally wanted to be a journalist. However, an interaction with a friend changed his live forever.
Corum said a friend of Hall’s who worked for an ambulance company dared Hall to go on a ride with him after Hall said he could never do that kind of job.
“He had such a good time with it, such a neat experience, that the next day he got a job as an attendant with an ambulance company,” Corum said.
Hall worked as an ambulance attendant from 1960 until 1971, when he created Hall Ambulance. He spent a total of 58 years in ambulance service, Corum said.
“He was truly a pioneer of modern EMS in California,” he said. “He’s done so much for the ambulance industry.”
The operation has since grown to about 471 employees, according to the company.
It is now one of the largest privately owned ambulance companies in the state.
“Mr. Hall took a genuine interest in every one of his employees,” Corum said. “He truly loved recognizing their accomplishments, learning about their families.”
Corum said Hall personally had an impact on him and the rest of the employees.
“Mr. Hall would always say ‘strive to make every day better than the last.’ That resonated with each of us,” he said. “He developed the Hall Ambulance brand. He taught me personally how to carry it forward, continue to grow and protect it and keep that brand alive in the community.”
Dick Taylor, director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, said he knew Hall since 2001, primarily through Hall Ambulance.
"He was a class act," he said. "Hall Ambulance is one of our partner companies who hire veterans. He would always attend veterans events I invited him to through the department."
Hall grew up in Bakersfield and graduated from Bakersfield High School. He attended Bakersfield College and San Francisco City College.
In addition to his wife, Lavonne, Hall is survived by a daughter, Amy, and a grandchild, Skyler.
Plans are being made for a community celebration in honor of Hall’s life. Details on the time, day and place are expected to be released soon, and the public is invited to attend.