Local man making it big in Boomtown

The oil boom in North Dakota attracted thousands of workers from across the country. One of them is Bakersfield’s Lee'o Whisenant, a worker making it big in Boomtown.
Bakersfield’s Lee'o Whisenant saw small towns in North Dakota struggle with the oil boom there. Even so, he's crossing his fingers that the Monterey Shale under California’s Central Valley creates a North Dakota-type oil boom in his hometown.

Two years ago, Whisenant was unemployed and living in Bakersfield.

That changed in 2011.

"I ran into a guy who had a job," Whisenant said. I "went to the interview, and then the second interview, and then they called me and said we have a job for you. I said yes and they said, 'It's in North Dakota.' and I said, 'whoa.'"

Despite hesitation, Whisenant jumped at the opportunity, moving 1,500 miles to Tioga, North Dakota.

"It was a big change," he said. "It was a drastic change." Especially the weather. "It's hot, then it's cold. But mostly it's cold."

Whisenant has been a safety inspector in North Dakota as a safety lead for two years, working seven days a week.

"The work up here doesn't stop," said Whisenant.

And it's good money. "It's like twice what you make in Bakersfield."

Yet Whisenant longs to go home. "I have a 7-year-old son in Bakersfield and I miss him."

The prospect of California's Monterey Shale is giving him hope. Said to hold 15.4 billion barrels of oil, Whisenant is hoping it's his ticket back to Bakersfield.

"I think it would be awesome. I think it would be great for the community. I think it would be a boost to the economy," said Whisenant.

He doesn't think crime, housing, and traffic issues would plague the Central Valley like it did western North Dakota.

"We're used to the (Interstate) 405 and traffic trying to get out of Dodgers stadium. Compare that to traffic up here it's kind of funny," said Whisenant - a funny thought he'd rather be thinking back in Kern County.

"It would be nice."
 
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