ALUMNI BOARD PROFILE:

'You could always turn to Fred." Fred Plane a 'fix-it guy' at the county and in the classroom.

Fred and Sheila Plane

Fred Plane, right, and his wife, Sheila.

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist

Fred Plane faced a formidable opponent the first time he had to go into budget hearings as a deputy county administrator: District Attorney Ed Jagels.

Jagels, a fierce public safety advocate, didn't like budget cuts. Plane and his colleagues in the Kern County Administrative Office were proposing major ones.

Plane made his case to the Board of Supervisors. Jagels made his.

The board sided with Plane.

Afterward, Jagels caught up with Plane in a hallway and congratulated him.

“I said, ‘Ed, it’s not a contest. I just saw it one way and you just saw it another way. And we let the board decide. I don’t consider it a victory.’

“I think that went a long way to establishing a long-term, good relationship.”

The story, from some 30 years ago, illustrates why Plane was so successful in his long career as a top Kern County budget official, colleagues say. They say he worked hard, did his homework and treated people with respect, including people who could be difficult.

It’s also what Plane, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSUB, says he teaches kids as a safe schools ambassador, one of several roles he plays in local classrooms.

He recalled coaching one little girl who got very confrontational with a school bully.

“’You don’t need to get into somebody’s face,’” Plane recalled telling her. “’You just need to tell them that what they’re doing is wrong and try to convince them there’s no reason for them to be doing what they are.’

“By the end of the year, she was just one of the best at addressing things.”

GROWING UP IN BAKERSFIELD

Plane was born in Oregon on Christmas Day 1955 and moved to east Bakersfield with his mom, brother and sister at age 5, when his parents divorced.

Plane’s mother, a nurse, married a grocer with two kids, creating a well-blended family.

“It was, ‘We are all brothers and sisters, this is my mom and dad,’” Plane said.

Plane described himself as a smart and studious kid who loved basketball but was never going to be a star because of how small he was: just 5 feet tall when he entered East Bakersfield High in 1970.

He started working at age 14, refiling charts in the doctor’s office where his mother worked. He’d go in every day after school and on Sundays, a work regimen he kept up his whole life.

The doctors were Seventh-day Adventists and helped him pay to study bio-chemistry at Pacific Union University north of Napa – a Seventh-day Adventist school. After two years Plane realized the program wasn’t for him and returned home to study business at CSUB – and work for the doctors in his free time.

“I just scrambled,” Plane joked of his school-work-life balance. “When you’re young, it’s not that difficult.”

His most memorable professor was Bill Ayers, who taught marketing. By the third week Ayers knew every student by name – something Plane has tried to emulate as an adjunct professor in public administration at CSUB.

“It’s important that I get to know everyone’s name,” Plane said. “…I think they respond to you better when you can address them by name.”

A LONG GOVERNMENT CAREER

Plane Jagels Crosby

Left to right: Former Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels, Fred Plane and former Kern
County Assistant Sheriff Phil Crosby in Minneapolis for a Minnesota Vikings-Los Angeles
Rams football game in November 2017.

Two years after graduation and a full-time stint with the doctors, Plane got a huge career opportunity – to be a buyer in the Kern County purchasing department at a time the county was constructing several new buildings. Plane negotiated contracts for furnishings.

“I had to make sure it was a fair process for everyone,” he said. “(In the end) several complimented me and the team on the process and how fair it was.”

Plane later moved up and into the County Administrative Office. It was a trial-by-fire position: analyst for the county’s public safety agencies. He not only had to tangle with the district attorney but the sheriff and judges, all powerful figures.

Then-Sheriff Carl Sparks was especially tricky to deal with, Plane said, because no matter what the sheriff thought personally, he had to make his deputies happy.

“He would tell me, ‘I agree with you, but my people don’t, so I have to fight,’” Plane recalled.

Plane frequently had to say “no” to people like Sparks and Jagels and he was able to do it without upsetting them – which isn’t easy, said Jordan Kaufman, a former colleague of Plane’s in the county administrative office.

“He just had a great demeanor,” said Kaufman, now the county treasurer-tax collector. “He could challenge them, say no to them when he had to, and yet still maintained excellent work relationships with them for years. And that can be a big challenge.”

Plane also earned people’s respect by being prepared, Kaufman said.

“He knew his stuff inside and out,” he said. “There was no way a department could fool him or BS him.”

David Price III, who as Resource Management Agency director was also a top county official for years, similarly described Plane as a “calm, quiet and reflective” guy who “moved seamlessly” through the county ranks because he was a quick study.

“He has been a bit of a ‘fix it’ guy, as when there was a difficult time you could always turn to Fred,” Price said. “He has a strong desire to help people, as (also) evidenced by his work within the social services community.”

Plane worked his way up to senior administrative analyst/assistant budget director and that’s where he “felt most comfortable and most proficient.” He was preparing to become budget director – but didn’t get the job when a new top county administer was appointed.

Getting passed up was a “huge disappointment” but ended up opening a new door: He became the analyst for Kern Medical Center, the oft-struggling county hospital. There he helped implement a productivity management system that identified overstaffing.

Nobody was laid off, but overtime and extra-help hours were cut.

“I felt we did some good things at KMC,” Plane said. “It got moving in the proper direction.”

Plane retired in 2011.

In their free time, Plane and his wife, Sheila, love to travel. They’ve been to all 50 states (a few just passing through), plus Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. (That’s 21 foreign countries in all.)

Plane is an avid sports fan, cheering on the Minnesota Vikings, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. He’s made several trips to see the Vikings and (now L.A.) Rams play, the Vikings winning every time, Plane notes. He’s also been attending CSUB Roadrunners basketball games for more than 35 years and has been a Roadrunner Club member for more than three decades.

He also enjoys fishing, going with buddy John Roberts, formerly Kern County chief probation officer, to Lake Nacimiento near Paso Robles about eight times a year. Plane also occasionally fishes with his brother in Oregon and with a couple of his grandkids at Camp Nelson above Porterville.

'AMAZING WITH THE KIDS'

Plane volunteering

Fred Plane volunteering at Centennial Elementary School in Bakersfield.

Throughout Plane’s career he taught at CSUB and served on the boards of several community organizations. He’s faced challenges of all sorts, from confronting corruption to helping kids with reading and math.

In the late 1990s, he and his colleagues on the board of the Kern County Economic Opportunity Corp. discovered that the agency CEO had been collecting overtime pay in addition to his regular salary – a no-no.

Instead of trying to keep it quiet, Plane and then-fellow board member Kevin McCarthy (now the House majority leader) went public by telling The Bakersfield Californian what they had uncovered and what they planned to do about it.

“We knew we needed to face it head-on,” Plane recalled. “We knew we couldn’t dodge the public interest.”

The CEO eventually resigned under pressure. Plane is still on the board of the agency, now called Community Action Partnership of Kern.

 “I really believe in what they’re doing,” Plane said of his continuing service there.

Plane really perks up talking about his volunteer work at Almondale and Centennial elementary schools, which some of his grandchildren have attended.

Plane does a variety of things, including helping youngsters with their reading and math and helping teachers with prep work, such as cutting squares and rectangles out of construction paper for use in art projects.

“’You know after all these years, I’ve gotten to use the paper cutters,’” Plane remembered joking to a colleague. “’You know how we were all told to stay away from the paper cutters? After all these years I’ve gotten to use the paper cutters.”

This year the Rosedale Union School District awarded Plane the Golden Apple Award, which is given to one teacher, one staff member and one volunteer each year. One of the two teachers who nominated Plane was Katie Timmons, dean of students at Centennial, who has worked with him in schools for five years.

“He’s just amazing with the kids,” she said. “He’ll bring in his own resources to share with the kids and he’s really kind in the way he works with them. Few people have the kind of patience he has with young children.”

Plane needs very little direction, is collaborative and points out respectfully what he thinks just isn’t working, Timmons said. And, she said, his skill set works with those at all age levels.

“He’s that way no matter what age of children he’s working with,” Timmons said, “whether a college student or one of my first-graders.”



FRED PLANE

Age: 61

Career: Longtime budget official at the County of Kern, including deputy county administrative officer, senior deputy CAO/assistant budget director, and chief financial officer at Kern Medical Center. Retired in 2011.

Community service highlights: Board member for the CSUB Alumni Association since 2017; Community Action Partnership of Kern since 1992; American Society for Public Administration since 1988; Toastmasters 1987-2011; Kern County Management Council 1988-2011; Desert Willow Apartments in Ridgecrest since 2005; Grace Assembly of God Church since 2006; and Pathway Family Services (nonprofit foster care and adoption agency) since 2009. Volunteer with Almondale and Centennial Elementary Schools since 2012.

Education: Graduated from East Bakersfield High School in 1974; earned bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1978 and master’s degree in public administration in 1994 from CSUB.

Family: Married to Sheila for 25 years, four daughters, eight grandchildren.