Local Politics

Saturday, Jan 05 2013 02:00 PM

New supervisor aides hail from inside, outside politics

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

As the three new incoming county supervisors were poised for their first board meeting Monday, their staffs of former rivals, onetime colleagues and veteran political aides were busy preparing, setting up offices and looking forward to their new positions.

Mick Gleason, former commanding officer of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, will represent the 1st District, a widespread northwest section of Kern County that includes Shafter, Delano, McFarland, Lake Isabella, Kernville and Ridgecrest. In addition to his office in downtown Bakersfield's county administrative building, he'll have field offices in Lake Isabella and Ridgecrest.

Dave Freeland, who ran against Gleason and several others in the 2012 primary but backed him in the general election, will be a senior advisor on district-wide issues. Freeland retired in 2006 from the U.S. Forest Service, where he was district ranger for Sequoia National Forest and oversaw 300 employees.

"My intent is to be out with the constituents, out on the road," he said.

"It seems like Mick and I gravitated toward each other," he said of how he came to join Gleason's staff. "We have similar values and work ethic."

Two other former federal employees will be Gleason's field representatives outside of Bakersfield.

Denny Kline, a former Navy man like Gleason, will be the field representative in Ridgecrest. Kline previously was the director of corporate communications at China Lake. Most recently, he's worked as a consultant for a military contractor.

"Five seconds after I heard he threw his hat in the ring (to run for the supervisor seat), I got on his bandwagon," Kline said just after Gleason's swearing-in ceremony Thursday.

Pat Connell will head up Gleason's Kern River Valley district office, covering Kernville, Lake Isabella, Bodfish and Weldon.

Connell previously administered large Navy contracts at China Lake. She said she'll work three days a week at the field office, based in Lake Isabella. Connell said she expects to work on the "big issues Mick is interested in," such as high unemployment, fixes to the Lake Isabella dams and methamphetamine trafficking.

Finally, Leigh Ann Cook will run Gleason's office in the Kern County administrative building in Bakersfield. Most recently, she was the government affairs manager at the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, but she's worked in county government before, for four years as a district field representative for retiring Supervisor Ray Watson, whose seat David Couch won in June.

Cook's salary was set at $58,424, and Connell's and Kline's at $38,046 each, according to the county Personnel Department. Freeland's pay wasn't available Friday.

The salaries are set according to a county pay scale, and each supervisor decides where his or her employees fall on the scale based on factors such as education and experience.

Supervisors each earn $101,648 a year, according to the county's pay scale.

New 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez has so far hired two staff members, but a third, likely a field representative, could be added later, said Kim Schaefer, who will be Perez's chief of staff.

Perez beat incumbent Karen Goh in June. The 5th District includes parts of east and southeast Bakersfield plus Lamont and Arvin.

Schaefer was on her way to Lamont Friday morning to meet firefighters there with Perez and see their facilities. Perez's team was working out of a temporary office in the county administrative building last week but planned to move into its permanent offices when they become available on Monday, she said.

"Our team is very excited to hit the ground running," Schaefer said. "Our number one goal is going to be putting together a jobs plan."

She said Perez plans to bring in interns from Cal State Bakersfield and have a field office in Lamont with hours perhaps one day a week, as Goh did.

Schaefer, a former district representative for Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said she met Perez when Schaefer worked for Costa and Perez worked for state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter.

"I worked for Congressman Jim Costa for two and a half years and have been actively involved in Democratic politics for a long time," she said. "So when (Perez) worked for Rubio, we crossed paths."

Costa recently shut down his Bakersfield field office because he now represents a different area, so the timing was right to move to Perez's staff, she said.

Anna Laven makes up the other half of Perez's staff. Laven is an educational consultant with a doctorate in educational leadership from UCLA. Laven will advise Perez on policy and also serve as a field representative, Schaefer said.

Laven's background includes 10 years in higher education, where she oversaw services for students with disabilities at Cal State Northridge, and worked as a student affairs officer at UCLA. For the last year, she's worked at Transforming Local Communities, a consulting firm for schools and businesses.

Laven's pay is set at $50,809 and Schaefer's at $64,553, according to the Personnel Department.

For Couch, some familiar faces are said to be joining the team.

The 4th District seat Couch won, held by Watson since 2002, represents a western slice of Kern County stretching from Wasco in the north to Frazier Park and Lebec in the south. It also includes Maricopa, Taft, Buttonwillow and parts of Bakersfield.

Former longtime Bakersfield City Councilman Mark Salvaggio told The Californian last week he will be part of Couch's staff.

"This will be my second tour of duty with the county of Kern," Salvaggio told the paper's CEO, Richard Beene. "I will approach every constituent issue and circumstance with the same dogged commitment that I exercised during my five years of service with former Supervisor Michael J. Rubio in the 5th District."

Ryan Shultz also is joining Couch's team. He managed Couch's campaign for the supervisor seat, as well as last November's Bakersfield City Council campaigns for Bob Smith, who won, and Elliott Kirschenmann, who did not.

Personnel records confirmed Alan Christensen is set to work for Couch as well. Christensen has held administrative posts in several Kern County cities.

He was the assistant city manager in Bakersfield from 1998 to 2006, then served as the city manager in Hanford in Kings County and Woodlake in Tulare County. He was then the city manager in Arvin, but was controversially fired from that post in early 2011 by the city council, which cited "administrative issues." He then became city manager in Wasco but resigned from that post last spring to pursue other opportunities, he said at the time.

The personnel department said Shultz's salary was set at $32,759, Salvaggio's at $45,303 and Christensen's at $59,010.

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