Lt. Chet Somera may be best known as a 30-year veteran of the Lodi Police Department, but now that he's retired, he's leading a new life.
Somera has been hired by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce to run the Downtown Lodi Farmers Market and the Parade of Lights. The two events have been run by the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership, but the partnership's board of directors voted to disband earlier this year.
The Farmers Market will be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. each Thursday from June 6 through Aug. 29. The Parade of Lights is held the first Thursday night of December annually.
Despite his extensive law enforcement background, Somera knows about farming, too. He grew up working in the fields in east Stockton with his late father, Chester Somera Sr. Somera Sr. was an immigrant who came from the Philippines by boat when he was 15 years old.
Somera and other chamber officials plan to continue some of the same traditions of the popular Downtown Lodi Farmers Market, plus some new attractions, Somera said.
These include offering a greater variety of produce for farmers to sell, such as beets, turnips, celery and other green vegetables, in addition to the berries, fruit and squash that have been traditionally sold at the Farmers Market.
The food court will be moved from Oak Street west of School Street, to Pine Street between School and Sacramento streets.
"We're trying to move the focus of the market to Pine and School," Somera said.
There will also be a beer garden at School and Oak streets, and a wine garden featuring Lodi-area wines near Elm Street, the north end of the market. The beer garden will feature rock and roll bands, while the wine garden will have jazz and other soft music, Somera said.
Another feature at Pine and School streets will be the "Farm to Fork" stage, where Somera plans to hold a pie-baking contest and have local chefs use produce sold at the Farmers Market to prepare a dish on the spot.
"When we put 4,000 people in roughly two and a half city blocks, there is often the opportunity for friction," chamber President-CEO Pat Patrick said, explaining why the chamber chose Somera for the job.
"Chet has people skills that Lodi policemen had," Patrick said. "Those skills are finely tuned, and even if he's not in uniform, he has a good presence of authority."
Somera said he doesn't anticipate fighting or other law enforcement problems at the Farmers Market because he has good people skills.
"I generally work well with people," Somera said. "If you treat people like they'd want to be treated, chances are everything's going to be OK."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.
CHET SOMERA AT A GLANCE
Career: Started as a police cadet in Stockton and a reserve for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office before joining the Lodi Police Department. He retired in January 2008 after more than 30 years.
Post-retirement activity: Taught an ROP class in administration of justice in the Lodi Unified School District; consultant in Sacramento for law enforcement agencies and school districts on emergency preparedness; general manager of In-Shape Health Club for two years. He now coordinates the Partners volunteer program with Lodi police in addition to his chamber duties.
Community service: Currently president of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lodi.
Family: Engaged to Carol Hopkins of Lodi; six children, four grandchildren and a grandchild on the way.
— Source: Chet Somera