MERCED — A familiar face is back at the California Highway Patrol in Merced and this time, he's taking the lead as the commander of that agency.
Capt. Malkiat "Sam" Samra's 30-year career took him from Merced to several places around California. His last assignment before returning to his hometown was in the Fresno County CHP office.
Samra, 52, was born in India and moved to Merced at age 10. He didn't speak a word of English, but credited his "fantastic, dedicated, devoted" Merced teachers for helping him, as well as his hardworking parents.
"My parents went to work the second day we were here, so we could have a good life and better opportunities for us," Samra said.
Three decades in the CHP took Samra to every corner of Northern California, including Sacramento, San Jose, Marin, Dublin and Sonora but he never forgot his home in Merced.
"This is truly my home and the community that I've been a product of, and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to serve (here) again," Samra said.
The father of three moved his family to Merced, a town he's never forgotten because of its "awesome" people.
"It feels very humbling, because I see it truly as a gift and an opportunity to really take care of my community," he said.
Merced County District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo said Samra is a great fit for the community and he's happy to see him return home.
"They couldn't find anyone better," Pedrozo said. "He's got a great personality, and he's the perfect fit, because he's from here, and he wants to be here. He's always wanted to come back home, and now he's home."
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin called Samra a longtime friend who began working in law enforcement about the same time as he did.
"He's always proven to be an honest, worthwhile individual, and he deserves his captain bar," Pazin said. "Even more pertinent is he gets to work in an area he grew up in, so it's a win-win for him."
Samra oversees 70 employees as commander of the Merced Area CHP, and has identified several goals for his community.
"I know that safety is something that is always on the public's mind," Samra said. "My goal is to create an environment where our kids can go to work, travel at leisure and truly feel safe."
As for Samra's future, he plans to stay in Merced for the long haul.
"Only the Lord knows where we'll end up in life, but that's my goal," Samra said. "I'm not ready to retire anytime soon."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.