2010 Grand Marshal Paul Gomez
Born in Exeter on July 6, 1944, but raised in Woodlake, the small town feeling is something that has always meant a lot to Paul Gomez. Born to Pete Sr. and Angie Gomez, he was raised with two brothers to be a man of Honor and Respect. Hard work, education and family loyalty were just some of the traits instilled in him as a young man growing up in a town that to this day he would continue to call his home.
At a young age, Paul started working with his father as a migrant worker. His first job was helping to transport manure around the valley. By the age of twelve, he was in the driver’s seat traveling to pick fruit in different areas of the west coast. This hard work continued throughout his high school years where at sixteen he graduated from Woodlake Union High School in 1962. After high school he began working at Bill Ferry’s Ranch. Once again behind the wheel of a truck he transported oranges to nearby packing houses. So in his first 20 years he was no stranger to hard labor.
In 1964 he married Belen Hernandez, also from Woodlake and who he got to know while working for her father at Woodlake’s Shell Station. Together they would have two children, Gilbert and Gloria.
He became interested in Law Enforcement about this time when he was approached by the Chief of Police at the time, Burt Mayfield, and was asked if he would be interested in becoming a police officer because he was looking for Spanish speaking officers. After hearing about the advantages of working for the Police Department, he agreed. He started as a Reserve for the Woodlake Police Department in 1965 and was eventually hired on full time in 1966.
In 1972 for several reasons he put his career in Law Enforcement on hold. He went to work for Champion Homes in Lindsay where he manufactured trailer homes. He worked there until 1974 when he encountered an accident and decided then that this occupation probably wasn’t the right job for him and he returned to Law Enforcement.
In 1974 Paul got a fresh start in a new precinct, this time as a Patrolman for the Exeter Police Department. While there he knew his education was important and he started taking courses at College of Sequoias in Visalia. He would graduate in 1975 with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree through satellite courses at Cal State Long Beach.
Being a young officer with a family at home, the life of a Police Officer took its toll. He endured a lot of experiences during his time on the force. He had an attempt on his life, grieved through the loss of two colleagues on duty and became a part of a family of men and women who made the commitment to protect and serve the communities from which they lived. He watched many officers come and go during his time and would come to call them his ‘family’. Paul started off as a reserve officer and over the years made his way to the top. He ultimately became the Chief of Police and also a well respected man in both the Woodlake and Exeter Communities.
Not only was Paul active on the force, but his love for his community and his family gave him reason to become involved in many activities during his off time. He volunteered as a Little League Coach for 10 years. He sat on the Woodlake Planning Commission for 6 years, served on both the Woodlake City Council, where he spent two terms as Mayor, and on the School Board. To this day he still listens in on meetings and will voice his opinions. He is a proud member of the Woodlake Lions Club, where he has filled all seats of the board and currently serves as the Sight Chairman assisting and obtaining eye care for the children of Woodlake. Paul is also currently a member of the Visalia/Tulare Chapter of the Mexican American Golf Association for over 40 years, where not only has he maintained lifelong friendships but he assists in working towards getting scholarships to Woodlake students.
After many years of hard work and dedication on the Police force, Paul would eventually retire in 2005 as the Assistant Police Chief of the City of Exeter and would go on to do as he had always dreamed: spend time with his wife of 45 years and play golf!
Paul and Belen still live in Woodlake, along with one of his children, five grandchildren, two of whom have chosen to follow his footsteps into law enforcement, and the most recent addition, his first great-grandchild, Andru Paul. He has spent the last 50 years plus committed to making Woodlake all it can be, something generations to come would continue to love, just as he has.
“I would like to thank the Lions Club for naming me the Woodlake Lions Rodeo Grand Marshall. It is an honor and privilege to be able to serve this community once again; a duty I shall perform with pride.” –Paul Gomez.