The year of 2019 in Shafter – in words and pictures
January 2, 2020 | View PDF
[4-LINE DROP CAPS]2019[TO HERE] has come to an end, and it has been a very eventful year in Shafter, full of highs, and some lows, too.
The year started off like the Fourth of July, with plenty of fireworks at the core of the city, as a returning city councilmember, Cathy Prout, retained her seat, as well as a newcomer in Cesar Lopez. Lopez was on the Shafter Recreation Board before deciding to run for the council. When the two were sworn in, the new council voted 3-2 to select Gilbert Alvarado as Shafter's new mayor. Lopez was then chosen as mayor pro-tem.
This change in leadership led to six months of tension that grew more oppressive as the weeks went on. Council members seemed at odds with each other often, not being able to agree on much. It came to a head when Mayor Alvarado and members Lopez and Manuel Garcia, were called out by a large group of residents for trying to rule the city at their will and not taking the city's best interest to heart. One specific issue was a plaque that was proposed to be placed at Veterans Park with the names and titles of the City Council members on it at the Veterans Memorial that was placed at the park to honor local veterans. This caused outrage by a large number of people and the idea was eventually shelved.
This led to talk of a possible recall effort.
The tension eventually lessened, and the council started working together more as a unit.
The year also started out with the annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, which honored a variety of citizens and businesses that made outstanding contributions the past year. The Commercial Remodel of the Year went to the Delph family, who remodeled the McDonalds in Shafter, making it one of the most advanced locations in the county, with a state of the art oven and a new system that allows customers to order their food online and pick it up at the location, delivered to their car. The Young Person of the Year went to Marco Rodriguez, who, in addition to being a catalyst for the Valley Runners-up Shafter Generals football team, was a star in the classroom as well, as one of the six valedictorians in the class with a 4.5 GPA.
January also saw the accolades roll in from the Generals' outstanding season in 2018. Alex Aguilar was named the Offensive Player of the Year for Kern County and teammate Jackson Sanchez was also on the first team.
[BEGIN BOLD]February[END BOLD]
February saw the return of the Shafter Colours Festival, which has brought the talents of the residents to the forefront, enabling them to display that talent on a big stage. Included in the festival was a performance by the Shafter Symphony, an art gallery featuring numerous local artists, as well as an original play by Larry Starrh that was put on at the Ford Theater. The play, "Engaging Adam," was somewhat of a departure for playwright Larry Starrh. This production was darker than his previous ventures, but still highlighted quick wit in a tale of betrayal and romance at the turn of the century Europe.
There was also a spaghetti dinner, chili cook-off, Colour Run, coffeehouse music, as well as all of the museums in town open to the public. The festival gives the artists in Shafter and the surrounding area a big stage to display their talents on.
The Shafter Symphony entertained a school full of children when they held their concert at the Fred Starrh Performing Arts Center. This concert was put on for hundreds of grade-school kids in the Richland School District. Conductor Stephen Penner paused the concert numerous times to explain the different instruments and what kind of sound they make. For a lot of the kids, it was their first exposure to classical music and stringed instruments.
[BEGIN BOLD]March[END BOLD]
Kristen McGuire was named the new Distinguished Young Woman of Shafter and will represent the city in the state competition in July.
Last year's DYW, Karly Cleveland, handed over the title on Friday night at Shafter High's Fred Starrh Theater, ending a reign that saw Cleveland serve the city at ribbon cuttings, special events and parades.
McGuire became the first winner in over 10 years to win the title without capturing any of the individual phases of the competition. McGuire performed well overall in the categories to outpoint the runners-up who took home the different phase titles. The First Alternate was Aaliyah Chavolla, while Clarissa Vander Poel was named Second Alternate. The Third Alternate was Kaelah Perez, and Isis Brownlow was the Fourth Alternate. For her win, McGuire took home a $2,000 scholarship and the title, giving her the opportunity to compete for the state title to be held at the Dore Theater in Bakersfield this summer.
Kristen is the daughter of Mark and Susan McGuire, and was sponsored by Richland Chevrolet. She tap-danced to the tune of "All That Jazz" for her talent.
There was a standoff between the Kern County Sheriff's Department's SWAT team and a man at the Wonderful Company: Ricardo Maldonado was arrested after 16 hours. Deputies were called out to 136000 block of Highway 33 near Lost Hills regarding a man on the roof of a building on the Wonderful Company's property. According to PUblic information Officer Angela Monroe, the man was armed with a make-shift sharpened weapon. Attempts to talk the man down did not work and additional agencies were called in. The property was evacuated and workers were called and told not to come to work. At the time of the incident, Public Information Officer Angela Monroe said that they were taking every precaution to end the situation with no one injured. As evening approached, nonlethal bullets were utilized, and Maldonado was taken into custody where he was transported and received medical treatment.
[BEGIN BOLD]April[END BOLD]
April saw the first in what would be several pioneers that Shafter lost in 2019. Fred Starrh, longtime farmer and leader in the cotton industry, passed away at the age of 89. surrounded
by family at his home following a stroke.
A Shafter resident since his family made its way to Shafter from Arizona in 1935, Starrh was a leader in the cotton industry, at one time serving as the chairman of Cotton Incorporated. He played an instrumental role in the merging of Cotton Incorporated and the National Cotton Council.
During the George H.W. Bush administration, Starrh was appointed to serve on the Cotton Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee and Cotton Marketing Committee by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Madigan. He advised on the development of the 1990 Farm Bill.
Away from the agricultural world, Starrh was still a leader, serving his community for over 15 years on the Kern County High School District Board, as well as a trustee for the Richland School District. Starrh was also a founding member of the Shafter Recreation District.
The City of Shafter was touched by Starrh's life, including his many hours of service as well as his generosity. Former Mayor of Shafter and current City Councilmember Cathy Prout said, "I feel fortunate to have known and worked with Fred in the city for many years. He will be truly missed by so many people he has touched throughout his life."
Starrh influenced not only the business of agriculture, but also touched people personally by giving them opportunities to thrive themselves. Son in law Jay Kroeker said, "Fred not only strove to be great in his business, he also wanted those who worked for him and around him to thrive and be great as well."
An example of this was this statement made by Carlos White of Insect Lore, Inc.
"Fred Starrh was not only my friend, but was in a great way the reason for my success. He offered to hire me to check his fields independently and with that and getting just a few farmers' fields, I had enough money for my family to survive."
Starrh was a leading supporter of the local theater, music and art programs in the city, signified by the naming of the Shafter High School Auditorium as the Fred Starrh Performing Arts Center. Starrh was also honored with his inclusion into the Cotton Incorporated's industry Hall of Fame, was named Shafter's Farmer of the Year, received the Western High Cotton Award and his recognition by the American Society of Agronomy.
Starrh was also well known for his decade-long lawsuit against local oil company Aera Energy, Inc. Starrh had claimed -- ultimately, successfully -- that the company had knowingly contaminated his groundwater, resulting in a multimillion-dollar judgment.
April also saw the reopening of the GAF plant near Lerdo Highway. GAF is one of the leaders in the roofing industry, and they manufacture roofs for about one out of every five homes in the United States. GAF Materials cut the ribbon for the reopening of their Glass Mat plant that was shuttered in 2009.
Local dignitaries including Mayor Gilbert Alvarado, Councilmember Cathy Prout and representatives from Supervisor David Couch and Rudy Salas' offices were on hand to celebrate the reopening. GAF is the nation's leader in manufacturing roofing materials, with one in four homes and businesses roofed with GAF roofing materials, according to industry leaders.
[BEGIN BOLD]May[END BOLD]
Shafter and Wasco came together once again to fight for a common goal in the Relay for Life.
The cities of Wasco and Shafter have a rivalry which is one of the fiercest and oldest rivalries in the county, if not the state. Students face off on the gridiron and on the courts, and the residents of the respective cities have grown up with the tradition of disliking the other community.
The cities came out in force to fight the disease. Teams were formed, raising money to help find a cure.
Wasco Mayor Alex Garcia welcomed the participants and told them that the ultimate goal was to help eradicate cancer, making events such as this one unnecessary.
The event was 12 hours long. The day was filled with games, music, entertainment and inspirational words from those who have fought and are fighting this great fight.
May also saw students from Shafter High and Richland Junior High walk across the stage as graduates as they held their annual Commencement Exercises. Shafter High Generals took center stage on Wednesday night as they held their annual Commencement Exercises. Principal Russell Shipley announced that there were 347 students to walk across the stage to collect their diplomas, ending their high school careers and embarking on the next step in their young lives.
The Shafter High Band, led by Phillip Bustamante played the students in with the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance", as the honorary Flower Girls headed up the procession. Senior Class President Juan Espinoza welcomed the parents, friends and family to the proceedings and gave the first speech of the evening. Espinoza thanked his fellow students, teachers, and especially his family for helping him throughout his high school career. "My family, at the end of the day, was the glue that kept me together. They kept me from falling apart in times of need," said Espinoza. Espinoza went on to say that he thought, without a doubt, that in the crowd lies the future of tomorrow. "Seated before me are tomorrow's engineers, doctors, teachers, military personnel, and everything in between."
Alyssa Perez mentioned in her speech the time just four short years ago when they entered those halls as nervous freshmen with highest of expectations, not knowing what the next chapter held for them. "As the pages kept turning, day by day, month by month, and year by year, we always knew that this day would eventually come, sitting side by side, in cap and gowns, walking across the stage, and receiving our diplomas, showcasing all of our hard work."
Several awards were handed out as the administration recognized the top four placers in the class. Out of the four places, there were a total of ten students awarded. Tied for fourth place in the class were twin brothers Willem and Zebulon Waterhouse, with GPAs of 4.378. Hugo Perez was awarded for having the third highest GPA in the class with a 4.40. The Salutatorian Award, given to the student with the second highest GPA in the class was received by Ezekiel Mendez, who ended his high school career with a 4.412 GPA. Principal Shipley then announced that there was an unprecedented situation at the top of the class. "For the first time in school history, we have an incredible six students who earned a perfect 4.5 GPA, tying for first place in the class."
Those students are Alex Aguilar, Juan Espinoza, Tyler Martinez, Julia Pitter, Marco Rodriguez and Lilyana Villa. "I am so proud of this class for their achievements and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for them," said Shipley.
[BEGIN BOLD]June[END BOLD]
Richland School District Superintendent Dago Garcia resigned, effective June 30, and Richland Junior High Principal Rosa Romero was named interim superintendent. Board President Deanna Rodriguez-Root said at the time that "Dr. Garcia has decided to move on and will no longer be Superintendent."
There was no specific reason given for the move and there has been no comment on the decision from the District.
Romero has over 30 years of experience in the education field, with 25 years being spent in administration. Some of her experiences include being a bilingual teacher, summer school coordinator, migrant resource teacher, assistant principal and principal at Redwood, as well as Richland Junior High.
Board of Trustees member Caine Maldonado said that the move was not a total surprise but stated that the most important thing to remember is the children. "We have great teachers who care about our kids. We are going to move forward continuing to make Richlan a great school district."
A grisly discovery was made by a farm worker at Westside Farms. A body was discovered in a silo in which a worker was trying to pull some gypsum out of. Fearing that the farm equipment, called an auger, was clogged, the worker investigated the source of the blockage when he discovered that it was a human body.
The body was eventually identified as Allen Jeffrey Stracener, 26 of Bakersfield.The Kern County
[BEGIN BOLD]July[END BOLD]
July opened with another Fireworks Extravaganza at Shafter High School. Fourth celebrated with a big bang at SHS
At the holiday celebration at Shafter High School on Wednesday night, the sky was lit up like, well, the Fourth of July. The event was put on by the Shafter Chamber of Commerce with the support of several local businesses and donors in the community.
The event has built a reputation as one of the premier happenings for the holiday, with the activities and the colorful fireworks show. It has drawn a number of families from Bakersfield and the surrounding communities in Kern County. "We have been coming here for the past five years. We love it. The fireworks show is awesome and there is so much to do for the kids that doesn't cost a fortune," said Margarita Nunez, who traveled from Bakersfield to attend with her husband and three children. We used to go to the Bakersfield College show, but when they stopped having it, we searched for a different show and decided to try this one a few years ago. We have been coming ever since."
[BEGIN BOLD]August[END BOLD]
Former City Manager Scott Hurlbert resigned, with the council voting 3-2 to accept the resignation. The meeting was filled with impassioned pleas from citizens for the council to change their stance on the issue. Several people spoke out about the change, stating that the council had forced Hurlbert out, citing the agreement between Hurlbert and the City of Shafter, which said that upon resigning voluntarily, Hurlbert would not be entitled to any severance pay. With the announcement that Hurlbert is to receive a package close to $250,000, it was clear to the residents that Hurlbert had not voluntarily resigned.
Following the meeting, there was immediate talk about the possibility of a recall. Citizens who were not happy about the departure of Hurlbert claimed that the city was not going in the right direction and that there had to be something that could be done.
James Zervis, the administrative services director for the city of Shafter was named acting city manager after the resignation of Scott Hurlbert. Zervis has been employed by the city since 2011. Zervis serves as the chief financial officer and treasurer of the city. Zervis came to Shafter from Wasco, where he was the city manager 2009-2011.
The council approved a project that will connect the city's sewer system to the housing development at Gossamer Grove. They authorized the city engineer to award a construction contract with a price of up to $2.9 million for the city's funded part of the project. The project, known as the Southeast Shafter Sewer Extension, was broken up into two phases.
Phase I will be funded by the city of Shafter. This phase covers the system section that goes from Santa Fe Highway to Zerker Road. This covers a two-mile stretch of pipeline.
Phase II of the project will be funded privately, with the majority coming from Lennar Homes. Currently, the Gossamer Grove development is being serviced by the North of the River Sewer System. An agreement was reached between North of the River, the City of Shafter and Lennar Homes for sewer services be provided to the homeowners in the development until the year 2027 or a volume limit based on the number of homes being serviced, which is approximately 1,500. There are now over 400 homes being serviced, with another 359 being offered in their next phase. According to Lennar Homes, the limit could be hit as soon as the end of 2020, so an alternative option has to be in place before the limit is reached.
[BEGIN BOLD]September[END BOLD]
The Shafter Steering Committee awaited a response from the San Joaquin Valley Air District Board as they review their Community Emissions Reduction Plan.
The San Joaquin Valley Air District selected two communities to be the pilot programs for this project. Shafter joined the south section of Fresno as the inaugural participants.
The committee sent its first set of recommendations to the San Joaquin Valley Air District Board for review, including recommendations on different programs proposed to reduce emissions in vehicles, reducing the amount of pollution in the air due to wood burning and replacing gas engines in farm equipment with clean electric engines.
A new threat to Kern County was unearthed, including right here in Shafter -- a different species of mosquito that has exploded on the scene this year.
"The last few years, we might find a couple per year, but this year it has been crazy. There are not too many areas of Kern County that have not seen at least some activity of the pest," a county official said.
It is called Aedes Albopictus, a species of mosquito that originally was found only in Africa. It is also referred to as the yellow fever mosquito. In addition to yellow fever, this species can carry the Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya.
[BEGIN BOLD]October[END BOLD]
The Shafter Generals football team, in a rebuilding year -- or so some thought -- found themselves in the midst of a six-game winning streak, including wins against Kennedy and Wasco.
The Generals pulled off a big upset as they knocked off the previously unbeaten Kennedy Thunderbirds, 27-21, giving them a chance to capture at least a share of the South Sequoia League title.
The last time the T-Birds lost a game to a Central Section team was to the Generals during the regular season last year. Kennedy then went on to go undefeated the rest of the season and beat the Generals in the Valley Championship game.
Shafter exacted revenge as they beat Kennedy in every phase of the game.
In the 93rd installment of one of the longest and fiercest rivalries in the county, the Shafter Generals held off a late charge by the Wasco Tigers and won bragging rights for the year with a 28-21 victory.
The Generals won the "Big Game" two years in a row, with the latest game allowing the Generals to claim a share of the SSL title – and a spot in the Valley playoffs.
Two Town Hall meetings were held to allow the public to give input into the recruitment process to find a new city manager.
Residents were asked at the start of the first meeting what they liked about living in the community of Shafter. Several residents responded with answers as varied as about the strong commitment Shafter has to its educational system, to the lengths that the city goes to keep our community members safe in their homes and on the streets of Shafter.
Susie Dobbs commented that she was impressed by the response time that there is when it comes to the Shafter Police Department. There were a number of citizens who thought that the financial stability of the city is one of the best advantages of living in Shafter.
There was also a question put to the public about what they would look for in a new city manager. One of the answers was that the candidates needed to have the "excellent performance" they saw with Scott Hurlbert and his predecessor, John Guinn.
[BEGIN BOLD]November[END BOLD]
Shafter loses two more pioneers
A joint funeral service was held at First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield on Monday for local pioneers Donald and Izetta Camp, who passed away just days of each other last week in Bakersfield, after sharing over 70 years together.
Donald Camp Sr., with his family, operated one of the most well-known farming institutions in the area. He was born in Shafter, while his parents, Wofford Benjamin (W.B.) Camp Sr., and his wife, Georgia Anna Camp, were living at the U.S. Cotton Research Station.
In addition to operating D.M. Camp & Sons, which is a very successful institution, the family also owns and operates Kern Machinery and several other John Deere Agriculture dealerships in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere.
In addition to the business side of the couple, they were loved by so many for their generosity and compassion. Both Donald and Izetta were known for their humble personalities and were quick to sidestep the limelight, opting instead to enjoy helping people without all of the accolades. According to son Donald Jr., Donald Sr. said, "Work hard and be good at what you do, but don't have a big ego and put yourself first above everything."
Local farmer Stan Wilson said that he dealt extensively with the family's John Deere enterprises and said, "I have never heard anything but good regarding Don. Everyone I have talked to mentions that Donald is a true gentleman."
[BEGIN BOLD]December[END BOLD]
The Shafter Depot Museum held their annual Christmas celebration with refreshments, music, Christmas trees and fun.
The Shafter Brass Band performed for the crowd, playing a variety of holiday favorites. Among the band was former Judge Gary Ingle, who is celebrating his 40th year playing Christmas music for the community of Shafter.
The event featured 16 trees decorated in the theme for this year, "Lights, Camera, Christmas!"
The museum is ever-changing, with new exhibits and a refurbished upstairs, which contains a child's playroom, a sitting area from the early part of the century and a kitchen out of the '20s.