In official rooms reserved for strategic talk about issues impacting what is now the third largest city in Los Angeles County, mention of moving away from “Mayberry” is often heard, often stated and expected.
In the less official rooms, however, such as the Century Room at City Hall Thursday night, behind a well-stocked spread of dinner rolls, salami and cheese slices, sandwich triangles and chocolate chip cookies, where one of the city’s founding fathers strolled in and council members laughed with guests, the meet-and-greet for newly-named Captain Robert Lewis revealed “Mayberry” is still very alive in the SCV.
The cozy small town feel of Thursday’s two-hour meet-and-greet for the newly-named head of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station felt a lot like the 1960s-era television’s Andy Griffith Show, which depicted a small fictitious North Carolina town where nothing really bad ever happens.
“This is a great community,” Lewis told The Signal. “We’re happy to be in Santa Clarita.
“I haven’t heard too many concerns tonight, really” he said, after having shared some one-on-one conversations with members of the public.
And, really, he was right.
About 30 people showed up at the event billed by city of Santa Clarita staff as a free open house meet and Greet for the community, more than half of them familiar faces such as: Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurene Weste, Santa Clarita Councilman Bob Kellar, city of Santa Clarita spokeswoman Carrie Lujan and Dennis Koontz who was a founding member of the city.
“I’m just a face, really,” Lewis said, pointing the image of himself projected on the wall at the front of the room. “The (sworn) guys are the ones doing a good job.”
Lewis, bringing more than 30 years of law enforcement experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to his new post, was named SCV’s top cop about six weeks ago.
“It’s great to be back,” he said at one point, referring to a three-year deployment in Altadena prior to becoming Captain here.
“They all do a great job,” he said again about his staff. “We all want to make the community know they’re safe.”
Thursday’s event was much like the recent law enforcement “outreach” program called Coffee with a Cop – with Captain Lewis being the only cop to meet.
One event guest said she had a concern she wanted to raise with the new Captain – deputy response time.
“Two years ago, a man was trying to get into my house at 2 o’clock in the morning,” said Newhall resident Nathalie Marg. “I called 911 and was put on hold for 10 minutes.
“I had to call three times in 40 minutes,” she said.
In the end, when deputies arrived, it was learned that a man who once lived at the house suffered from dementia, she said.
“I thought he was a drug addict,” Marg said.
More recently, she found a man on the ground outside a Newhall liquor store, curled up in a fetal position.
“I thought ‘Oh my God, this is an emergency,’ and I called the sheriff’s station. I was put on hold for six minutes,” she said.
Although he did not comment on this particular concern, Lewis said each concern he learned of during Thursday’s event would be followed up.
“In finding out some of the concerns, I just talk with them and tell them that I will meet with them at a later date,” he said.
Lewis began his law enforcement career in Santa Clarita as a law enforcement intern and was most recently assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley station from 2007-2014.
Lewis’s career has led him to many assignments throughout Los Angeles County, serving at posts in Malibu, West Hollywood and Altadena.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in science, vocational and occupational studies from California State University, Long Beach.
And, not surprising to “Mayberry” fans, he lives in the Santa Clarita Valley with his family.