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16-year council member Harold Hanson dies at 85

He was a political independent who loved to speak up and a fiscal conservative who took pride in returning his constituents’ phone calls.

Harold Hanson, a Bakersfield City Council member who represented Ward 5 for 16 years, died June 12 at the age of 85 surrounded by family at Mercy Southwest Hospital. His cause of death was not disclosed.

The city of Bakersfield thanked Hanson for his years of service and offered condolences to his family in a statement.

“While I did not work with Mr. Hanson during his time on the Council, I have been told of his collaborative nature by those who did and that he was someone who loved his community here in Bakersfield,” City Manager Christian Clegg stated.

Hanson, the oldest of five children, was born Dec, 27, 1936 in Windsor, in Ontario, Canada and traveled to California in his twenties. He fell in love with the United States.

A conservative Republican, Hanson was also a conscientious independent who returned constituents’ calls the same day they came in, former Councilman Mark Salvaggio recalled Monday.

Hanson would make sure to read the entire council packet rather than skimming through it — a quality Salvaggio said isn’t as common as it might seem.

“Harold took the high road,” Salvaggio said. “He was the gentleman on the City Council.”

Councilman Bob Smith shared a similar view — that Hanson kept the city’s best interest in mind and was “one of the ones that would look for solutions.”

“I think he was a consensus-builder,” said Smith, who represents Ward 4.

Hanson was not a fan of big government, and he didn’t hide it. Some proposals struck him as “just another chance for government to do the wrong thing,” Smith recalled Hanson saying.

“We’re not San Francisco, we’re Bakersfield,” Smith recalled Hanson uttering on more than one occasion.

Jacquie Sullivan, Bakersfield’s longest serving city council member, witnessed Hanson get elected four times from 2000 to 2016 and ultimately get defeated by former Ward 5 Councilman Jeff Tkac in a major upset. Tkac died by suicide soon after he was elected.

She fondly recalled Hanson’s witty, energetic spirit and honesty.

Sullivan remembers Hanson’s strong background in finance greatly helped out other elected officials, and she noted he was a fiscal conservative. His background — the former vice mayor worked in banking for 40 years — made him well-respected by city staff and his constituents, she added.

“He always had an opinion,” Sullivan said, “You didn’t have to wonder how he felt about something.”

Sullivan initially didn’t know about unions, retirement and benefits while starting her own business, but said Hanson guided her through those matters.  

“He was just own unique personality,” Sullivan said. “Very likable and fun to work with.”

Hanson gave back to his community by donating many gallons of blood, while also being an active churchgoer at St. Francis and St. Philip The Apostle Church. An obituary written by his family states Hanson traveled the world many times with friends and family.

“His appetite for adventure was endless,” according to his obituary, which published Sunday.

Hanson is survived by his wife of 49 years, Lana, and daughter Kelly Hartwick, her husband Brad and their family Adam and Anne of Bakersfield; their son David, his wife Eileen and their family Ryan, Aaron and Emily of Ohio. Hanson leaves behind his daughter Lori and her husband Mike Duke, of Maryland; his son Robert of Long Beach; his first wife Joanna Hanson of Ohio; and eight great-grandchildren. 

A memorial service is planned for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Philip The Apostle Church.

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