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Andria Witmer takes wheel at Bishop CHP

January 13, 2011

Bishop Area CHP Captain Andria Witmer took her post as local commander in December and is working to balance a tough budget and keep area state roads and highways safe. Photo by Mike Gervais

Bishop’s office of the California Highway Patrol has a new leader at the helm, one who hopes to carry the area office through tough financial times and bring a little stability to the local command.
Andria Witmer, a 26-year veteran of the CHP who has served in many areas throughout Southern California, was promoted to captain and took her position at the Bishop Field Office Dec. 2. In recent years, the Bishop Area Office of the CHP, which covers state roads and highways from the southern boundaries of Inyo County to Tom’s Place, has gone through several commanders, but Witmer, who is replacing Captain Tim Lepper, said she plans to hold the local command post until she retires.
“My goal is to be here for at least three years and add a little bit of stability to the command,” she said.
Captain Lepper was transferred to the Border Division of the CHP.
As commander, Witmer is responsible for overseeing every aspect of CHP operations, including more than 25 officers, seven dispatchers and four sergeants, writing the budget and keeping fleet vehicles in working order.
The biggest challenge, she said, will be maintaining 24-hour staffing, seven days a week, with a dwindling budget.
“The biggest issue we face are the budget issues we have to abide by,” Witmer said. “Our focus hasn’t changed, because what gets people hurt on the road hasn’t changed, but this is the roughest I’ve seen it. I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t affected.”
She went on to say that, throughout the course of her career, she has witnessed state employees who have gone over and above the call of duty to make sure the job got done.
In light of recent state mandated furlough days, Witmer said she has seen CHP mechanics and other employees go to work off the clock to ensure that officers’ vehicles were ready for patrol.
“It’s a challenging time,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of state employees working straight time when they should be on overtime. I’ve seen them come to work for nothing to make sure the job gets done. What people don’t see is that there is quite a bit of time donated to get the job done.”
Witmer said that she appreciates those efforts, but wants to avoid scenarios where her officers and staff work off the clock or for less than they deserve.
She said she hopes to get creative with both the budget and schedule for her employees to ensure Inyo County does not lose any services, and officers don’t lose hours on the road due to budget constraints. But with increasing fleet maintenance costs and field costs, Witmer said she has her work cut out for her.
On the lighter side, Witmer said she is happy to be living in the Owens Valley and looks forward to taking advantage of all the recreational opportunities the Eastern Sierra provides.
A 1999 National Barrel Racing Association Champion, Witmer also enjoys skiing, riding her motorcycle and quad and recreating in the outdoors.
“In Southern California, you don’t have as much interaction with such a wide array of people, but in smaller communities, citizens are much more apt to get involved,” she said. “I’m used to rural living and I love it. I’m going to make myself available to the public to meet with them and answer questions. I’m real happy to be here.”

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