How his perseverance translated to commitment to community
Charlie Uhrig knows a thing or two about perseverance.
Since he was a kid, Mr. Uhrig knew he wanted to be a cop. There were police officers in his life, through church and the community, who he looked up to. He admired how they carried themselves, their unbridled commitment to honesty and community.
Mr. Uhrig had a heart for law enforcement — albeit, not physically.
A heart murmur issue prevented Mr. Uhrig from joining the Santa Barbara Police Department right out of high school, a path taken by a number of his classmates.
The Santa Barbara native had to go a different route. He spent about two decades working for Capitol Hardware in Santa Barbara as well as at Valley Oak Industries in Santa Ynez.
But Mr. Uhrig didn’t give up on a law enforcement career. He tried a few times with the Santa Barbara Police Department as well as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
And his perseverance paid off.
At 46 years old, Mr. Uhrig received an offer from the Sheriff’s Office after passing physical and psychological evaluations. He passed a pre-academy program before winning the Leo Ortega Most Inspirational Award (a designation voted on by attendees and academy staff) at the academy.
He graduated from the academy, where he trained alongside a bevy of eager future officers who were half his age, in 2001.
On March 31, after about 20 years of service, Mr. Uhrig retired from the Sheriff’s Office after a career mirroring the qualities he admired in those he knew as a child, a career in public safety underscored with a dedication to his community.
“Charlie is without question what I would call the personification of what community policing is all about,” Sheriff Bill Brown said last week when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors presented Mr. Uhrig with a resolution of commendation. “Charlie is really someone who truly cares. He is really someone who has a heart for service to others.”
“I really appreciate your public service and your commitment to the community,” Supervisor Gregg Hart said.
After joining the Sheriff’s Office, Mr. Uhrig worked patrol in Goleta. It wasn’t long before he was transferred to the court division.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Uhrig transferred again — this time to a position tailor-made for the gregarious Mr. Uhrig and where he would stay for most of his law enforcement career.
As the Solvang community resource deputy, Mr. Uhrig did a little bit of everything. He worked with youth, participated in sports and other community activities and ingrained himself in the community.
Mr. Uhrig, 67, is particularly proud of his work to implement community activities that could be enjoyed by all ages, including music and movies in the park — “little legacy” activities that are still ongoing to this day.
Mr. Uhrig was the “quintessential model of community policing,” Board of Supervisors Chair Joan Hartmann said.
Mr. Uhrig, a proud father and grandfather, also enjoyed being able to work with youth, through summer music schools, by coaching various sports or just being available to answer questions.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids come and go and then come back. It’s gratifying when you see some of them become good people,” Mr. Uhrig told the News-Press. “That’s really all you hope for, to be a good person.”
“This was my dream job. I persevered, and I just hope I tried to do new things with my community that would benefit everyone, from kids up to seniors,” he said.
As officials honored Mr. Uhrig last week, there was a common message: his commitment to the community.
It’s no wonder he was handily elected Solvang’s mayor in 2020, given his dedication to the Santa Ynez Valley city.
Mr. Uhrig served as the community resource deputy for Solvang, where he lives with his wife, until the position was terminated in 2020. After recovering from an injury and surgery, Mr. Uhrig moved back to the court division where he had been working as a bailiff in arraignment courts at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Anacapa Street.
And even though he’s retired from law enforcement, Mr. Uhrig is continuing to volunteer wherever he can.
He has a particular love for his work in the Santa Barbara courthouse, recalling the almost tangible, earthy smell of history from the hefty books lining the courtroom.
“It was a beautiful little courtroom, and it’s exciting to be a part of that history,” Mr. Uhrig said.
Mr. Uhrig isn’t written into the books lining the courtroom — at least not yet — but his indefatigable dedication as a Solvang resource deputy won’t soon be forgotten.