Spotlight on the candidates: Daures Stephens

Kern County 1st District Supervisor candidates discuss issues

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Spotlight on the candidates: Daures StephensWith our low-density population, remote location and statistically insignificant contributions to county revenue streams, the Indian Wells Valley has developed a historical sense of underrepresentation in a county dominated by oil, agriculture and a center of government located on the other side of a mountain range and populated by a city more than 10 times our size.

For the last 24 years, the Indian Wells Valley residents have enjoyed representation in Kern County’s 1st District by a resident — first Jon McQuiston, then Mick Gleason. However, when the county lost a suit in 2018 against the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which advocated for a second “minority-majority” district, the redistricting process left us with a much larger chunk of Bakersfield residents — squeezing us out as the largest concentration of high-propensity voters. Even before Gleason announced that he had no intention of seeking re-election, residents began speculating that our voice on the five-member Kern County Board of Supervisors could diminish.

Both candidates were offered an opportunity to share their backgrounds, platforms and ties to our community, in order to gain your support at the ballot box.

Absentee ballots went out this week, and polls open Tuesday, March 3.

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“I moved to Ridgecrest roughly 47 years ago, when I was 10 years old,” said Daures Stephens.

He identified himself as somewhat of a lost teen — “I am probably the only candidate who can say I climbed the water tank over by McDonald’s” — but noted that recruitment into the Ridgecrest Police Department’s first Explorers class turned his life around.

He joined the military, where he earned distinction as a sharp-shooter, and worked in law enforcement when he got out. After several decades of service with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, he retired to Kern River Valley to operate his business, South Lake Cycle, and spend time with his wife Lisa, also a former Ridgecrest resident.

“My successes outside of military and law enforcement include getting the Kern River Valley courtroom back open,” he said. After being told that there was no way, he solicited support from KRV service groups, as post president of the American Legion, to advocate on behalf of the citizens.

“We got it reopened, which was a great acknowledgement for my work,” he said.

Stephens ran for supervisor in 2012, ultimately coming in third in a field of eight. He is also a voting delegate of the Republican Party of California and an appointee to the Kern County Behavior Health Board.

“I am trying to understand the issues,” he said. “No. 1 is a crisis of public safety in Kern County.” He said that Kern has been the No. 1 county for homicides in California for two years in a row. “That’s not something we want to be No. 1 in.”

He also said that Kern County is not a small-business-friendly place —an issue he identified as one of his inspirations to run for office. “I cannot grow because of the country regulations. When I speak to other businessmen, I find there is a lot of confusion in the building and planning department.”

He also acknowledged that water is the main concern for the IWV. “Apparently there are experts in the field working on it, but nobody has the same answers. I think what we need is further examination. If we keep saying, ‘We’re going to run out of water,’ but we don’t know when, I’m concerned about how that impacts growth and the real-estate market. We have to come to a conclusion,” said Stephens.

“And importing water does not sound like a feasible option. We don’t know where it’s going to come from, and no one wants to pay for it.”

For the rest of Kern County, oil is a huge issue. “That’s important to all of us, because its a main funder of all the things we use in Kern County.”

He has other issues close to his heart, after losing a partner to an accident on the job and suffering from valley fever. “Nothing is really important until it affects you.”

Another of those issues is expanding veterans’ services. “PTSD is a real issue, and not everyone understands the needs of our veterans like I do,” said Stephens.

“I want to be an advocate. One of the biggest complaints I hear is the inaccessibility of our local government.

“There’s also an accountability problem. No one knows who to talk to or how to make things happen.”

He is endorsed by Assemblyman Devon Mathis and former Sheriff Carl Sparks, as well as the Kern County Detention Officers Association and Kern County Probation Department.

“What I would say to the voters? Research the accomplishments of the candidates very carefully.

“As a Marine, a sheriff’s deputy and citizen, I have never let the public down. And I never will.”

Story First Published: 2020-02-07