Taft Mayor Aims At Watson’s Seat on Board of Supervisors

  • Candidate for Kern County Fourth Supervisor District Cliff Thompson says he'll 'outwork Watson.'

    Candidate for Kern County Fourth Supervisor District Cliff Thompson says he'll 'outwork Watson.'

By Patric Hedlund

Taft Mayor Cliff Thompson visited The Mountain Enterprise on Friday, Nov. 16. He said he was offering us a ‘scoop’ about his intention to declare his candidacy for the District 4 Board of Supervisors seat currently held by Ray Watson. Watson has twice denied he intended to run again, then declared on October 2 that he had changed his mind and would, in fact, seek reelection.

“I’ve never run a negative campaign,”Thompson said Friday over a bowl of Dream Castle chili soup, “But you can’t govern this county from an ivory tower on Truxtun Avenue.”Thompson, who says he is a Republican in a nonpartisan race, asked about issues of concern to the future of the Mountain Communities. The Mountain Enterprise has extended an invitation to Ray Watson to come for such a talk as well.

The Taft mayor said that Watson is responsive to “Bakersfield interests.” He said he admires the work of District 5 Supervisor Michael Rubio “who gets out into the neighborhoods and rural areas and gets work done for the people there.”

Thompson is plain-spoken and quick. He spent 20 years working in oil fields and on platform rigs converting pneumaticto electronic control systems for Chevron, Exxon and Vanoco oil companies. On Friday he dressed in a pinstripe suit and vintage art deco tie as he leaned forward to illustrate his short but feisty political career. He says he found multi-million dollar fraud being perpetrated on the city of Taft when he was first elected in year 2000 to the city council. He ousted the popular city manager and was able to “stop the hemorrhage at $750,000 instead of millions,” but lost his council seat in a recall election—all within his first nine months in politics.

When the Kern County Grand Jury found his assertions were accurate, indictments and then convictions were handed down against consultant Gretchen Belli. Thompson was reelected in 2003 by a 30 percent margin. He became mayor. He has been barreling forward to implement ambitious plans for the revitalization of downtown Taft, including negotiating for purchase of 60 acres of railroad land in the center of town. He envisions a “green and walkable” commercial and residential city center development.

Thompson said he understands Frazier Park’s need for a “walkable commercial center.” He asked about emergency medical services in the Mountain Communities. He said his father died of internal bleeding "between Taft and Bakersfield." He spoke of ambulance response problems when Hall ambulances were away from Taft on runs to the hospital in Bakersfield.  His goal is to reopen the hospital in Taft. He said “it sounds like you can’t do without a firefighter-paramedic program," in this rural area, saying "you have it even worse than we do in Taft."  He added, “the difference between Ray Watson and me is that I do my homework.I’m proactive and hands on. I’ll outwork Watson.”

[In an email note to the editor on Tuesday, Nov. 20, Thompson revised his statement:  "I said it sounds to me like you can’t do without a firefighter-paramedic program, but I went on to say that the program would have to have a sustainable business plan to survive. I then explained that I needed to study the issue and I would come back and talk to you again after I had done some research." He also asked to substitute this statement: " My father died because we didn’t have a hospital with emergency medical services. Hall Ambulance did arrive and transport my father in a professional and timely manner."]

On Monday, State Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter endorsed Thompson, citing his“fire and adrenaline.”

Asked if it is possible for a rural resident to win in District 4, Thompson said,“All I need is 30% of the city votes, and all the rural votes…besides, Dean Florez never backed a loser….” Florez is reported “to like the rough and tumble” of Thompson.

“I can work across party lines, and this is not a partisan race,” Thompson said,adding that he is opposed to urban sprawl in discussion of community support for the Frazier Park-Lebec Specific Plan.

This is part of the November 16, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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