Craig Hinch is all about service.
Before he joined the California Highway Patrol 19 years ago, Hinch, 50 and a Sacramento native, said he did everything from drive school buses to work with youth.
“I’ve always enjoyed and had a passion for serving the public,” Hinch said. “It’s all about helping people.”
Hinch said those motivations will help drive his leadership when he takes over as Commander of the Oakhurst CHP office Oct. 3, replacing Jason Daughrity, who took the position in January last year.
“I think there’s a lot of good programs going on in the office right now,” Hinch said. “So I want to take some time, see where there’s areas of need, and ensure we as officers continue to properly serve the public ... that’s my main focus. We want to make sure we maintain a safe environment for people to come visit and tour, as well as for those who live here.”
Hinch began his law enforcement career as an officer in central Los Angeles when he was 32 years old.
“I was getting too old to start, so I thought it’s either now or never,” Hinch chuckled. “But I wanted to be in law enforcement all my life. I was just doing a bunch of other things back then.”
Since then, Hinch’s CHP career has taken turns throughout the state before his first-time stint as a commander.
After 14 months in LA, Hinch transferred to Monterey, where he served as a motorcycle officer for more than two years. From there, he served as an officer in San Francisco for eight months, followed by two-and-a-half years at an administrative position in Sacramento, and six months in Napa as a field officer. When he was promoted to sergeant, Hinch returned to Sacramento for three years, then served as sergeant in Fresno from 2006 - 2013.
Finally, before he applied for the Oakhurst Commander job, Hinch spent his last three years in Sacramento as administrative assistant for a CHP commissioner.
“I guess I’ve been around the center section of California a good bit,” Hinch said. “But I’ve always liked the hills, the mountains, camping, everything like that. There’s a nice relaxed environment here, and the people are great. They’re a different group as opposed to a metropolitan area, so I’m ready for a nice change.”
Hinch isn’t a stranger to the Mountain Area, either. In 1992, he worked as a counselor at Calvin Crest, and it was there he met his eventual wife Nichole, who worked in the kitchen.
Hinch and Nichole bring along their dogs - they, as well as the dogs, regularly participate in SAR operations, he said - as well as a passion for boating and the outdoors.
“I’m really looking forward to serving this area,” Hinch said.
Hinch graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Former Commander Daughrity has taken a lieutenant position at the CHP Academy in Sacramento.
When he becomes Commander Oct. 3, Hinch will oversee 19 uniformed officers, four non-uniformed staff, and 22 volunteers. He and his wife have two daughters, Emily, 19, and Lauren, 22.