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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
With military medals in hand, Donald Vereen had a message: "I wanted to show the people of Ward 1 and Bakersfield that I am a doer."
The 59-year-old candidate for the Ward 1 Bakersfield City Council seat focused on what he's done for youth and the community Friday during an appearance on "First Look with Scott Cox."
"We want action. We don't want to sit around and cry about it," Vereen said. He said he wants to hold community meetings to talk about what people can accomplish, and empower community action.
Vereen said he'd like to introduce bartering in the neighborhood -- that concept of one person helping with his skills, and then the recipient of help turning around and sharing his skills.
His father died when he was only 7 months old after not accepting medical help. He said he left home at age 15 because of "stuff, stuff, stuff" and he sees the same issues -- such as one-parent homes-- in Ward 1. He finished high school in Detroit and received the most improved student recognition.
Vereen said he served in the Navy from 1972 to 1974.
At age 55, he said, he went to the University of La Verne to earn a degree in organizational management. He's now in graduate school and hopes to finish an education degree next March.
"I brought evidence. I brought results," Vereen said of the accomplishments he shared on the simulcast Friday. His other examples included serving as a lieutenant governor of Kiwanis and on the board of the Bakersfield City School District.
Vereen said that as a school board member, he visited all 41 schools in the district. He told the principals what he wanted to see, and reported his findings to the principal and superintendent.
When he saw kids making problems for the yard staff, he'd ask the kids what church they attended. Vereen told them he knew their pastor, and he'd talk to their pastor and their mother unless they made a pact to apologize. No more problems.
He talked about common goals. For example, he said, he worked with Monsignor Craig Harrison from St. Francis Parish on a Habitat for Humanity home. Harrison is Catholic; Vereen is Protestant. "Our common goal was L-O-V-E," Vereen said.
His message for the community: "I'm out there. I'm for you. But are you for yourself?"
The election to fill the spot vacated by Rudy Salas, who went on to the state Assembly, is Tuesday.