BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The politicians we know. We see them on TV on a regular basis, read their names in the paper. And that’s in non-election years. The ones who actually do the work, draw up the plans, schedule the crews, coordinate with the contractors – those government officials we don’t hear from nearly as often. Even if they’ve been at it for 40 years. Even if – on their watch – the human footprint on this county – geographically larger than six separate U.S. states – more than doubled and now approaching a million.

Say hello to Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope, and while you’re at it, say goodbye.

Pope is retiring after 40 years working in public works and its governmental subsidiary the county roads department, including 28 years as a department director. His last day is Friday.

KGET News asked him what he’s most proud of.

“The bike trail is a fun one,” he said. “I love to get behind the projects the public gets behind because then it’s just … joy. It’s funny because I was up in Tehachapi last week and I drove the back way in and there were a dozen people on the overlook of the rail. That Tehachapi Loop up there – and there are a dozen people using it. It’s like, yay! That’s what it was built for, you know?”

Not every goal was achieved. He’s saving a few things for the interim director.

“In my world, nothing is ever finished,” he said. “I have been in an organization that does maintenance, you know, road maintenance – that’s never done. It’s kind of like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. At least they get to one end sooner or later. We never get to the end. We’ve got 3,300 miles of road.”

So, next time you drive from Frazier Park to Ridgecrest, or Buttonwillow to Rosamond, with nary a pothole along the way – well, very few – thank Craig Pope, the man who made it his life’s work to make your experiences on the road, at the landfill, in the construction permitting process, as painless as government can conceivably make them.