Merced undersheriff has worn many hats

MERCED -- Tom Caval-lero, a 25-year veteran with the Merced County Sheriff's Department, was sworn in Monday as undersheriff.

Cavallero, 45, takes the reins as the department's second-in-command from Bill Blake, 59, who retired Friday after 38 years with the department. Before Monday's swearing in, Cavallero held the rank of commander.

Cavallero was sworn in by Sheriff Mark Pazin during a brief ceremony in the county Board of Supervisors chambers. His wife, Wendy, pinned his new golden star badge to his uniform.

"When something like this happens, it's really based upon the hard work of those you work with, as well as your own hard work," Cavallero said.

In appointing Cavallero to the new role, Pazin said he and Blake picked "the right person" for the job. Pazin said the undersheriff's job is "24-7," requiring day-to-day communication with the sheriff.

"Tom Cavallero has a very good law enforcement pedigree," Pazin said, adding that Cavallero has a "common sense" approach that fits well with the department.

Born in San Francisco, Cavallero moved to Modesto with his family at a young age. He started as a reserve deputy sheriff in 1983 and became a full-time deputy in 1984. Over the years, he's been in charge of the department's aviation unit, started the equestrian unit in the early 1990s, and served as a composite drawing and crime scene artist during the mid-1980s. Caval-lero served as a media liaison in the early 1990s.

He said he was inspired to become a law enforcement officer by his brother, Steve Cavallero, who worked for the California Highway Patrol.

"He became a highway patrolman when I was a child. I saw it was a good profession, and that hard work was rewarded," Cavallero recalled.

As undersheriff, Cavallero will receive an annual base pay of $122,636.80, with benefits.