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Mary K. Shell, a trailblazer and civic leader for Bakersfield, dead at 91

A photo provided Thursday, June 14, 2018, by the Kern County Museum shows Mary K. Shell during her time as Bakersfield mayor in the early 1980s. Shell died Thursday at the age of 91.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – Mary K. Shell, Bakersfield's first female mayor, died Thursday morning at the age of 91.

The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reports that Shell suffered from a short illness.

Shell was mayor in the early 1980s and later served three terms on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. She was the second woman ever elected to the county board.

"Her focus was always on the individual," Mayor Karen Goh said. "What am amazing role model, just a person to emulate because of her caring. She cared so deeply, she gave generously of her time and she served zealously."

Her friend, Assemblyman Vince Fong, called Shell a "trailblazer" for women in Bakersfield.

“She was a tremendous community leader and my prayers go out to her family,” Fong wrote in a Facebook post.

Before her foray into politics, Shell worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist.

The Bakersfield native attended East Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield College.

She married Joseph C. Shell, an independent oil producer and former state assemblyman.

As mayor, she founded the Beautiful Bakersfield Committee, established the Historic Preservation Commission, established one of the first Vietnam War memorials in the country and brought back the annual downtown Christmas parade.

The Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center is named in her honor.

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Biographical information courtesy of the Kern County Museum.

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