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Mayor reports on City Leaders’ visit to Washington DC

By Susan Read News Review Staff Writer–

In a recent interview with The News-Review, Mayor Eric Bruen reported on the city leader’s visit to DC. Trips to our nation’s capital by Ridgecrest city leaders have established updated communication with state and national elected officials and their staff. Mayor Eric Bruen, City Council Member Scott Hayman, and City Manager Ron Strand joined others in meetings that brought several significant issues to be highlighted and discussed.

Mayor Eric Bruen
/ Laura Austin Photo

Mayor Bruen participated in an annual advocacy trip for his employer, Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union, who approved that Bruen also uses the opportunity to address city subject issues. For that purpose, he met with Congressional Representative Jay Obernolte, whose 23rd District includes portions of Kern County; Rep. Mike Garcia of the 27th District, including Lancaster; Rep. David Valadao of Bakersfield’s 22nd District; Rep. Kevin Kiley, whose 3rd District includes Inyo and Mono Counties; and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, representing part of Kern County in the 20th District.

During each meeting, Bruen highlighted three issues critical to the future of Ridgecrest. With a focus on strategic plans for growth, recruitment and retention, and quality of life for its citizens, the first topic emphasized the effort for fuller, transparent communication with residents. “We discussed how community outreach helped with the passage of Measure P,” Bruen said, referring to the approved local one-cent sales tax designed to address priorities identified by the public over a one-year visioning process.

Next, Bruen addressed the city’s continued hope to annex land on the south end of the city along U.S. Route 395 for the placement of a travel hub, which would increase city exposure, provide an additional revenue stream, and encourage economic growth with gas and electric vehicle charging stations, a convenience store, and fast-casual dining. An expanded tax base becomes vital with dwindling state resources and cost increases.

Finally, the critical issue of water access, availability, and sustainability was covered, explaining the need to support these Congressional representatives from the areas surrounding our city, now and in the future.

In April 2023, Ridgecrest City Manager Ron Strand, Council Member Scott Hayman, and Kern County First District Supervisor Phillip Peters traveled to Washington to focus on water with the staffs of Rep. Obernolte; Rep. Pete Aguilar of the Inland Empire’s 33rd District; California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla; and Montana’s Senator Jon Tester, an advocate of clean water and water infrastructure. The discussion points included the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s interconnection with the Antelope Vally East Kern Water Agency (AVEK). According to its website, AVEK is “a wholesale water provider that treats, delivers, and stores water, providing treated water to retail agencies and untreated water to agricultural customers within its 2400 square mile service area, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Kern, and Ventura Counties.”

With Ridgecrest working toward a new wastewater facility to replace the existing 77-year-old plant, the team expressed an interest in considering additional funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan program and the possibility of a grant through the Defense Community Infrastructure Program. The Ridgecrest delegation requested guidance to seek and apply for other financial resources (see related information in the report of the April 19th City Council meeting).

“These were good foundational meetings,” Strand said. “We opened communication and received positive responses, with a commitment to continue to communicate. In addition, we have invited Senator Padilla to visit and have a tour in the future.”