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Familiar Face In Driver's Seat of Newhall CHP Office

Mark Odle comes home to his community to lead the local CHP.

A
long-time resident of Santa Clarita has taken the helm of the local California
Highway Patrol office and he’s happy to settle in.

Captain
Mark Odle,  23-year veteran of the California
highways said that he’s worked several offices in Southern
California
, but always considered the Santa Clarita Valley his
home.

“It’s
a wonderful opportunity to be the boss here,” he said, smiling.

Image
Captain Mark Odle, new Commander of the Newhall CHP office

His
office is neatly decorated with models of CHP cars and motorcycles, a hint of
what Odle does with precious spare time, but don’t expect him to spend a lot of
time behind the desk. Odle is a hands-on kind of guy.

“I
think one of the fundamental differences in the Newhall area as far as L.A.
County
goes is while CHP areas deal
with traffic issues and crime-related issues, the Santa Clarita and Newhall
area deals with Mother Nature,” he said. “Some
areas won’t deal with flood, fire and snow closures, but we get all of those.”

He
sees the area’s rapid expansion and amount of vehicle traffic as one of the
station’s other great challenges, noting that I-5 is the most heavily traveled
road in the state in both commerce and commuters and it flows right through the
center of his territory.

“I
would say dealing with the growth and number of miles in motor vehicle travel
is a challenge,” he said. “As the community expands into unincorporated areas,
the CHP is responsible to patrol those roadways and investigate traffic
accidents in those areas. We’re spread pretty thin.”

A
law enforcement buff since the age of 8, Odle walks the talk of a proud police
officer, even when he’s faced with budget problems trickling down from Sacramento.

Image
Odle's favorite company car

“We
continue to carry the torch and do the good work of the Highway Patrol,
providing safety and service to everybody.”

He
reminisced about growing up in Hanford,
just above Bakersfield, remembering
a neighbor who was a CHP officer.

“I
was intrigued by the way he behaved, it was so professional and I decided that
I was going to join the Highway Patrol. As I grew into a young adult and
finished my military duty (he spend three years in the U.S. Army Military
Police), I knew I could work anywhere in the state if I joined the CHP. I
couldn’t do that with LAPD, but when I reported to the Central LA
office right out of the academy, I fell in love with the LA area and chose to
stay here.”

Odle
has a twin brother, Michael, who took the LAPD oath and is now the senior
officer in that department’s SWAT team. A picture of Michael is in the center
of Odle’s office bookcase, a tribute to the brother he respects highly. “He’s world
class,” Odle said.

“To
be given an opportunity to make a difference and to serve, for me personally,
that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It may sound kind of corny, but that’s
what it’s all about.”

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Having
worked at Central, Newhall and the East Los Angeles
stations, Odle’s return to the Newhall station as Commander gave him a fresh
set of eyes to see where things worked and where changes could be made.

“Our
non-uniformed staff enjoy working here and they’re outstanding,” he said. “I
think everyone here was a little anxious about me coming back. I guess I’m –
well, they know that I will take care of business and my expectation is that
they work hard. I am firm but fair, that’s how I’ve been described.”

Odle’s
spare time centers around his 9-year old daughter, the only picture bigger than
his brother’s on the bookcase and the mention of her causing a grin to break
out on his serious face. He does spend a little time on his own, riding
motorcycles on coastal runs or through the canyons of the area. He doesn’t
belong to an organized group, preferring the open road to clear his head.

Asked
about his most memorable experience from his 23 years behind the badge, he says
that there are thousands of incidents, but a recent one still chills him

“It
was in the morning on the 210
freeway and I was surrounded by San
Fernando
gangsters
who did not want me to take their friend to jail, so we had a standoff, if you
will,” he said. “It was about 10 minutes before I could get help. It was a very
interesting event – any error on my part would most likely have resulted in my
death or very serious injury. Once sirens were heard in the background, the
gangsters left me with the suspect, who I had stopped after a low-speed pursuit
and DUI.”