For each of the past 16 years, I have welcomed the opportunity to share some insights in this space with readers of the annual Corporate Relocation Issue of Bakersfield Magazine. As I near the end of my fourth and final term as the Mayor of Bakersfield, I am amazed by the many changes our city has experienced during that time.
The first that comes to mind is how much Bakersfield has grown. When I began as Mayor, the city’s population was about 247,000. Today it is more than 379,000. That means Bakersfield’s population has increased by more than half, about 53%, in only 16 years. With that increase in population, Bakersfield has zoomed up the list of the nation’s largest cities. In 2000, Bakersfield was the nation’s 68th largest city by population. Today it ranks number 52, larger than the cities of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, or Honolulu. Among California cities, Bakersfield has moved from the eleventh largest to the ninth, passing Santa Ana and Riverside. Our position as ninth largest city places us between Oakland (no. 8) and Anaheim (no. 10).
More people mean there are more things to do, and Bakersfield has many more amenities than it did 16 years ago. For example, the 32-acre Park at Riverwalk, opened in 2006, provides numerous opportunities for fun, and its Bright House Networks Amphitheatre is a unique outdoor venue for a variety of performances.
State Farm Sports Village opened its first phase in 2011 and now accommodates youth soccer and football on a year-round basis. That same year, Mesa Marin Sports Complex also opened and has become a prime venue for state and regional softball tournaments.
The Padre Hotel opened to outstanding reviews in 2010. Since that time, it has been named one of the “17 Most Unique Hotels in the West” by Sunset Magazine, and has spurred significant private sector investment in its surrounding area.
The City hosted numerous events which garnered positive exposure for our City. Notably, the City twice (2010, 2012) hosted a stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race, welcoming premier athletes, fans, and audiences from around the world.
When I began as Mayor, there was not yet a Mill Creek. No red covered bridge, no Mill House with its working water wheel, no Sister City Gardens, and no walking path that links restaurants, housing, and entertainment. There also was no Maya Cinemas, no McMurtrey Aquatic Center, no San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Sports Center, and no U.S. Federal Courthouse. These amenities collectively attract thousands of residents and visitors annually, further helping to reestablish downtown Bakersfield as a business, entertainment, and cultural hub.
During my tenure as Mayor, I have had the honor of cutting countless ribbons on numerous road projects in our city.
Many of these projects have been made possible through the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, otherwise known as TRIP.
TRIP only began in 2006, but in the few years since it has given us the 99 and Hosking Avenue interchange, the 178 and Morning Drive interchange, the Highway 58 gap closure, the Seventh Standard Road widening, the Mohawk Street extension, the 178 and Fairfax Road interchange, and the Westside Parkway. These transportation projects play a crucial role in ensuring Bakersfield will continue to grow and prosper for years to come.
It has been my pleasure to serve as Mayor and to share some of our successes with Bakersfield Magazine’s readers over the past 16 years.
When I have been asked what makes Bakersfield so special, I am happy to say, “It’s the people, and a whole lot more.” May our many successes continue and may Bakersfield always be a special community for us all. CR
Our Greatest Cheerleader
By Bakersfield Magazine
Many may know Mayor Harvey L. Hall as the man in the wild suits, but what really makes him stand out is his passion for his community. His love for Bakersfield and its residents is apparent in how he has changed our city for the better throughout the time he’s served. Whether it’s through volunteering for monthly cleanups, his involvement with local nonprofits, or campaigning about why Bakersfield is such a great place to live to anyone that would listen.
He’s consistently shown his love of our area through penning articles for our annual Corporate Relocation issue every year since taking office in 2001. In his very first article for Bakersfield Magazine he stated, “I can honestly say that I am proud to be a product of Bakersfield with a passion to make this the best city in America.” With this mission in mind he has written about a wide range of topics highlighting the many positive aspects of our community.
Mayor Hall has left no stone unturned as the champion of this great city. He’s shared the economic development happening all around us, highlighted our many wonderful county parks, and showcased why our city is a perfect place for conventions. Among many other things, in 2014’s “Growing a City” he tackled how quickly our population has grown and the improvements needed to our roads and freeways to facilitate the increase in traffic, through the Thomas Roads Improvement Program.
Through the years he’s also touched on some of his favorite causes, which he dedicates much of his time to. A couple of these are chronic homelessness and removing litter from our streets. He tackled both of these in his article “Clean & Green” just last fall, where he discussed the partnership between the Bakersfield Homeless Center, the Kern Council of Governments, and Caltrans. This alliance has many facets, some of which include having work crews from the BHC removing litter from our streets, sorting material from the City’s curbside green waste recycling program, and caring for animals that come through the Animal Care Center.
Another area of importance he’s passionate about is the Sister City program, which he wrote about in a 2007 piece entitled “World Friendship.” Partnering us with municipalities around the world, this organization provides us with opportunities for cultural, educational, and professional growth by joining us with international communities. Since he’s assumed office Bakersfield has linked with three additional cities; Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico; Bucheon in the Republic of Korea; and India’s Amritsar.
Throughout the years, he has continuously found something positive and encouraging to say, while bringing his unique view to the issues that our community faces every day.
Together, we invite you to look back at the images on these pages, as we reflect on just some of the moments Mayor Hall has given as this city’s biggest cheerleader. CR
Photos courtesy of David Taylor (Sign); Visit Bakersfield (sister cities); AEG (WINNER)