First Woman Elected to the Office of Mayor, City of Bakersfield
K. Shell is the daughter of Mary Ellen and Walter Jaynes. She is a native daughter
with a long and distinguished record of service to the citizens of
Bakersfield. She began her professional career in a non-traditional role for
women of the time as a reporter for the Bakersfield Californian. In 1946, she
left that position and moved into another predominately male bastion. It seems
the resourceful Miss Jaynes wanted to learn to fly an airplane. She knew her
parents would not fund such an enterprise, so she decided to pay for it herself.
Shell became a flight dispatcher at the La Cresta Airfield, which was located
in the area of the Panorama bluffs. During her years as a dispatcher, Mary K.
earned a pilot’s license and she maintains it to date.
the next two decades Mary K. devoted her time and talents to a number of pursuits.
She first served as a reporter-photographer and then as the editor for the News
Bulletin, a semi-weekly newspaper serving metropolitan Bakersfield. It was during
this time that she married Joseph C. Shell, an independent oil operator, who
also had been a member of the California State Assembly and a GOP candidate
for Governor in 1962. Mary became active in a number of civic organizations
and raised a family.
1970 she went back to her first love, journalism. She was a columnist covering
the State Legislature and other state agencies until 1980. She then declared
her intent to run for the office of the Mayor of Bakersfield. Mary K. recalls
that the odds were pretty well stacked against her and no one (except Joe) believed
she had a chance in the runoff election with four men. Her grassroots campaign
included many volunteers walking door to door in neighborhoods all over the
city until 7:00pm on election night. Mary took little time to savor the
victory as she began four years of dedication and accomplishments that included
of the Beautiful Bakersfield Committee
Forming a committee of veteran’s organizations to build a memorial to Medal
of Honor recipient Larry Pierce, and all Kern County Viet Nam veterans. The
memorial is located at the county courts building
Leading efforts to create the Bakersfield Historical Preservation Commission.
Establishing the Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast as an annual event.
on the California Local Government Task Force by the appointment of Governor
1984, Shell left the position of Mayor when she was elected to the Kern County
Board of Supervisors. She was re-elected to the position in 1988 and 1992. She
was only the second woman elected to the Board. Her countless contributions
over her 16 years of public service have greatly impacted Bakersfield and Kern
County. However, when asked about her most memorable public accomplishment,
Mary K. said without hesitation, “using grant funds to convert sump property
to a lighted soccer field in an underserved area and coordinating efforts to
establish an American Youth Soccer Organization region at the field.” Shell
recalls stopping at McDonald’s one day and as she was leaving a young woman
followed her out saying, “thank you so much – my brother was headed for trouble.
Having the soccer field in our neighborhood made a difference. He joined AYSO
and changed his life.” For Mary, her many honors and recognitions have been
wonderful, but none is as significant as that simple thank you.
Copyright 2015 First Women of Kern County