"Local Personalities"

Supervisor Ray Watson

by Maggie Van Ostrand

"Everybody Loves Raymond" is more than a television sitcom, it's how his constituents feel about Supervisor Ray Watson.

Take your hat off and place it over your heart when you drive by Supervisor Watson's Frazier Park office. Even though he's mostly in Bakersfield, the mountain communities are high priorities on his list. And it's a very long list, especially since he retired from the private sector in 2002 after winning Broadcaster of the Year Award from the California Broadcasters Association. Not only that, he had a building named after him: KGET-TV 17, Bakersfield.

44 years ago, Ray Watson had finished working his way through USC and been employed for seven months as a CPA at Ernst & Ernst (now Ernst & Young), when he met future bride, Marlene. He had just received a draft notice from Uncle Sam and his last day at work was her first day. Smitten, he asked her out. Unsmitten, she said "Sorry, I'm busy."

But she listened when other employees advised her to "go out with this guy." They were married a year later, and now have five grandchildren from their two sons.

Only "about a couple of hours every six months," does Ray Watson have time for hobbies. He "hacks around at golf," enjoys wood carving in his garage, and does "a very small bit of drawing and painting," in pastels and acrylics.

Like all intelligent married men, Ray Watson claims his favorite food is, "Whatever Marlene makes," though he's partial to Mexican and Italian dishes. "I never turn down a good meal," he declares.

Another indication of superior intelligence is that he listens to us, his constituents. If you didn't see "Supervisor" before his name, you wouldn't take him for a politician, since he doesn't sling mud. Instead, he slings financial expertise, dedication, and community ideas throughout Bakersfield, Buttonwillow, Frazier Park, Lebec, Lost Hills, Maricopa, Pine Mountain Club, Taft and Wasco.

When he's not seducing funds from State and Federal governments, he's attending meetings about "issues that have to be dealt with."

One of our local issues discussed at a joint meeting of the Bakersfield City Council and Kern County Board of Supervisors Monday night, September 27, dealt with animal control. Supervisor Watson confirms serious overcrowding at shelters. Tax money, better spent on community improvements, is instead spent euthanizing unwanted dogs and cats who would not have been born, if owners had them neutered.

As high as 83% of our dogs are unlicensed, with 86% percent unneutered.

"We have a (licensing) program where you get a reduced fee if the animal is neutered," advises Supervisor Watson. "We'll be enforcing substantial penalties to owners who don't license their dogs." Dog owners can support these efforts by being responsible and getting their pets neutered.

It's amazing how much a community can do to improve itself, with a soft-hearted Supervisor and a little hard cash.

"I'm very impressed with the natural beauty of the mountain communities," states Watson. "It's the Gateway to Kern County, with a tremendous opportunity to become a 'showpiece.' One of my responsibilities is to make sure that growth and development don't have a negative impact on the people or the environment."

About the future of Frazier Park, Supervisor Watson reports, "A couple of things we've been pursuing are (1) A streetscape project in the business district, putting in sidewalks, curbs and gutters, street lighting, and landscaping -- an intimate feel so people will have a more enjoyable and safe environment for business, and (2) rehabilitating Cuddy Creek. Due to flooding over the years, the banks have eroded and the creek bed is in disrepair. People have tried to make repairs themselves by putting concrete chunks to protect the banks, but it's not enough. With Federal and State funding, we plan to put in more natural vegetation. Eventually, we hope to have walking trails."

An application for $500,000 has been filed for the streetscape and should be available within a year or so, and flood control will be about a million dollars. Despite the State's budget problems, Supervisor Watson continues to push for these improvements.

"These projects," he says optimistically, "will do a lot to form a core area that will be attractive to visitors and help build the economy. Tourism attracts shops, businesses, motels, sports like hiking, fishing, and horseback riding."

This may be the final season for television's "Everybody Loves Raymond," but our Raymond? He's just getting started.

Supervisor Ray Watson: 245-4041, 868-3680; fax 868-3688; 1115 Truxtun Ave., Suite 504, Bakersfield 93301. Website: http://www.co.kern.ca.us/bos/dist4/

Reprinted by permisson of Maggie Van Ostrand

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