The City of Taft was incorporated in 1910; however, the community of Greater Taft includes the county areas of South Taft, parts of Taft Heights to the southwest, and Ford City to the north. The official population of Taft City is nearly 10,000; Greater Taft boosts a population of 19,000.
Taft is in the center of the Midway-Sunset Oilfield, the largest oilfield in the lower forty-eight states. Iconic companies currently in operation in Taft include Chevron, AERA Energy, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, California Resources Corporation, Key Energy, Holmes Western and many other locally owned and operated companies.
In addition to oil, Taft has many locally owned shops, restaurants, hair salons, antique stores, and more. Businesses along Center Street, Main Street, and North Street are working together to revitalize the downtown and work with the Chamber to host events throughout the year.
Taft has an active recreation district (West Side Recreation and Park District) that includes many top notch parks, state of the art weight room and gymnasium, 4-lane bowling alley, skate park, and softball fields. Schools in the area are well managed and students are learning the skills necessary to be successful.
The City of Taft has a colorful history. Before becoming Taft, our city was known as Moron, and for obvious reasons, there was a push to rename the city. Legend has it that the decision was made to name the city Taft because during a discussion of changing the name, a government official leaned back in his chair, dislodging from the wall a picture of the current seated President of the United State. The portrait of President William Howard Taft fell into the lap of the official, and the new name of the former Moron was decided.
The history of Taft officially must begin with the Tilamniu Indians who settled on the west shore of the Buena Vista Lake about seven miles from where Taft is currently located. These Indians have been credited by the Smithsonian Institution, as early as 1934, as having used the substance we now know as petroleum to waterproof and reinforce their daily implements. The first recorded oil strike in the area occurred in 1901, and Taft’s commercial association with oil began.
Now Taft is at the center of the Midway Sunset Oilfield, the largest oilfield in the lower forty-eight states. Although the petroleum industry is experiencing a tough downturn as this is written, there is no doubt that the largest industry in Kern County is centered on the West Side, boasting the iconic names in petroleum of Chevron, AERA Energy, Exxon Mobil, Phillips, California Resources Corporation, Key Energy, Holmes, and many others. If renowned oilman T. Boone Pickens, in his remarks at last year’s West Kern Petroleum Summit (part of the 2015 Oildorado event), is to be believed, this latest challenge to the petroleum industry will be temporary and instructive.
So Why Live and Work in Taft?
**One of the best reasons to live in Taft is that it is SAFE. Voted one of the five safest cities in the United States, the Taft Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department have an outstanding partnership with regards to working together to maintain the safety of the citizens of Taft.
**Taft is uniquely situated on the western side of Kern County. Within two hour’s drive from Taft, a traveler can be at the coast, in the mountains, or enjoying boating, fishing, hunting, or sports of all kinds. Through the use of Interstate and state highways, folks can easily connect with the large metropolitan areas of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on the coast, and the inland hubs of Sacramento and Fresno.
**Taft is affordable. Housing, commercial property, and land are relatively inexpensive. Although “landlocked” in the past by oil company holdings, new, modern housing developments and commercial venues have refreshed the community’s landscape. Sandy Creek Estates will add over 200 new homes before it is completed, and the Taft Inn, the area’s newest Best Western Hotel have made a huge, positive impact on the economic and housing options for our community.
**Taft’s governing entities are stable. The City of Taft, under the direction of the City Council, boosts years of calm, thoughtful decision-making. Although not without its challenges due to economic downturn, drought, and State and Federal governmental regulations, the City has remained steady in its vision of growth. Aided by well-managed special districts, Taft has enjoyed the benefit of careful planning by people who have selflessly served to make water, healthcare, recreation, mosquito abatement, and cemetery services available and affordable.
**Taft’s schools are excellent. If one doubts the importance of education to the community of Taft, one need look no further than the schools. Taft City School District, Taft’s elementary district, has been engaged in a refurbishing program financed by bonds voted in by citizens in 2001. Every school in the district has been modernized through the support of the community. Taft Union High School, an extraordinarily beautiful and well-maintained fixture in Taft for over 100 years, is often confused with the Community College just adjacent, Taft College. The West Kern Community College (Taft College) has been modernized recently and will soon begin a major construction project to improved services and amenities specifically for students. Taft College was recently ranked #2 in the nation for Community Colleges and offers a wide range of programs and certificates available to all students. It also is home to the Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program, internationally known for its success in moving developmentally disabled young adults into living on their own, financially independent through their own employment.