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Monday, Jan 07 2013 11:00 PM

Welcome! Now get to work, supervisors

By The Bakersfield Californian

Congratulations to the three newest members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors -- a freshman-dominated council that will eventually be compelled to sort out some difficult issues.

David Couch, Mick Gleason and Leticia Perez held court for the first time Monday, with Couch availing himself to the obligatory swearing-in ceremony a mere hour before the board's opening gavel. The board has not had as many as three new, incoming supervisors since 1917.

Each of the newbie supervisors can draw on relevant experience from some other aspect of government management -- Gleason as the commanding officer of an important military base, Perez as a supervisor's district aide and Couch as a longtime member of the Bakersfield City Council, making him the only new supervisor to have previously held elective office. They will undoubtedly look to county staff for their cues, especially in the early going, and they will be fortunate to rely on experience elsewhere on the dais in the persons of Mike Maggard, who will serve as board chairman this year, and Zack Scrivner, who will be vice chairman.

But there's not much room to accommodate lengthy learning curves on certain issues of the day.

Chief among those issues: Contentious debates with the city of Bakersfield over the equitable distribution of tax revenue and the fairest way to fund and operate a joint Animal Control operation. Also high on the list of tough issues: Kern Medical Center's chronic budget problems, made even more challenging by the region's longstanding physician shortage; limited buy-in from other local health care organizations on funding for KMC's residency program; and new obligations associated with implementation of the new federal health care law.

Many of this board's challenges will be associated, at least to some extent, with Kern County's high unemployment rate and daunting poverty level.

The board's three new supervisors are equipped with some of the skills and predilections needed to deal with those issues. But they'll need our (limited) patience and best wishes just the same. They've signed up for a tough job.

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