Supervisor Ray Watson responds to questions at a community forum in Pine Mountain during February.
By Patric Hedlund
Ray Watson, the only member of the Kern County Board of Supervisors who faced a challenger this election year, kept his seat Tuesday as supervisor of the fourth district after a vigorous contest mounted by Taft City Councilmember Cliff Thompson.
Thompson took a respectable 41.84 percent of the votes, at 8,005. Watson won 11,064 votes or 57.83 percent. Voter turnout was at 26.3 percent.
The challenger scored endorsements from State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter), an array of public employee unions (including Taft prison guards and law enforcement).
Rural residents protesting Watson’s views on services to outlying areas of the large district worked for Thompson. Runaway development, roads repair and safety, air quality and emergency medical services were concerns listed by rural voters who planted "Vote for Cliff Thompson" signs in their yards.
Thompson hoped to win the 37% of district four voters who are rural and then cut into Watson’s urban Bakersfield base. Watson ran a solid wall of television advertisements on Bakersfield stations in the last days of the campaign, while leveraging his incumbency by bringing long-needed aid to rural regions such as a $275,000 grant to Frazier Park to repair crumbling pipes, a commitment of $3.2 million for a fire station promised to Pine Mountain for thirty years and a ‘straw poll’ about emergency medical care.
On May 23, The Mountain Enterprise received a mailed copy of a Grand Jury complaint form, dated May 6, 2008, on which Supervisor Ray Watson was accused of "influence peddling and extortion" for coercing Harvey Hall to stop Hall Ambulance’s Media Relations Director Mark Corum from assisting Thompson’s campaign.
The Mountain Enterprise telephoned Ron Edsall, who was named on the form as the complainant, to ask whether he had intended to send the complaint to the newspaper. He said, "No, I did not, and I did not send it."
The signature on the form was redacted. Edsall’s wife, Barbara Edsall is a Frazier Park resident who worked to organize support for the challenger.
In an email transmission circulating throughout the area, Frazier Park’s Lloyd Weins spoke of readying a recall petition to file after the election.
Just prior to election day, Carlos L’Dera sent a claim to the Kern County Counsel, members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the County Clerk, making a claim for reimbursement from Kern County because their "agent," Hall Ambulance Service, had mishandled an emergency call when his wife was injured this winter with multiple dog bites to the face. She has a heart condition for which she takes medication.
The ambulance driver was unable to navigate snowy mountain roads despite driving a chain-equipped four wheel drive vehicle. He refused to bring the ambulance and its paramedic into Pine Mountain, despite the fact that private vehicles were transiting the same road. It took almost four hours for Suellyn L’Dera to finally get to a hospital in Bakersfield.
L’Dera is asking the county to pay Hall’s disputed bill of $779.25 plus punitive damages, for a total of $3,117. He also complains that Supervisor Watson did not respond with actions and information he had promised to provide the L’Deras.
The County Clerk confirmed on Tuesday, June 3 that she had received L’Dera’s claim, but said the county counsel, Barnard Barman informed her that the claim would need to be submitted in another form than via email. She said she would provide L’Dera with the form.
Residents of the Mountain Communities—in all sectors—have voiced concern about the need for firefighter paramedics equipped to provide rapid first responder advanced life support (ALS aka paramedic services) in cases of medical emergency.
On April 1, Watson encouraged other supervisors to vote against using state funds to provide a free one-year paramedic pilot program to Pine Mountain. Kern County Fire Chief Dennis Thompson had arranged for the funding.
This is part of the June 06, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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