John Metroka Jr., one of five recently appointed members of the County Service Area 36 Advisory Council, has clear priorities for the kinds of recreational activities that could benefit all residents of the district.
Metroka, a recently retired lieutenant with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, believes recreation benefits all age groups. “I strongly believe physical activity and all forms of recreation are vital to physical health, mental sharpness and an overall positive disposition by those who participate,” he said. “I support all forms of recreation for the young to the young at heart.”
In clarification, he cited the value of team sports for youth and young adults. “Team sports for the young promote overall health and introduce young minds to the dynamics of team spirit and good sportsmanship,” he noted. “Healthy recreation and the continuation of sporting activities are equally vital for young adults who are reaching a time in life when the lack of positive influences can be detrimental.
“Having worked in the Idyllwild area as an officer, I saw first-hand what young adults might revert to as diversions when positive activities are not available. I support lighted skate parks and other after-hour activities that would give the kids places to go and burn off energy.”
Metroka emphasized the importance of serving Idyllwild’s senior population. “It is very appropriate that activities for more mature individuals be supported and encouraged,” he said. As examples of such activities, Metroka proposed organized hikes, gardening, photography classes with excursions and low-impact strength training. “These are just a small example of what could be provided,” he said. “Community programs like the ever-popular Bingo are not out of the question.” Metroka emphasized that the council’s job is to listen to residents of all ages about the programs and activities they would like to see offered as part of CSA 36 tax-funded recreation.
Born in coal-country Pennsylvania to a coal-mining father, Metroka grew up in the Riverside area from the age of 7. “As a family, we did not have much and came to appreciate the simple things in life. Our idea of a vacation was fishing in Lake Hemet and hiking in Idyllwild,” he said. “The entire family felt blessed to be in the great outdoors. I believe this is where I developed such a strong affinity for outdoor life. I have continued to consider the San Jacinto Mountains, Lake Hemet and Idyllwild as places of adventure, solitude and rejuvenation throughout my life, and now I live here.”
In college, Metroka studied political science and pre-law with the objective of becoming a lawyer. But over time, he realized his calling was to serve as a police officer. “For me, it was a good fit,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference where it mattered most — at the ground level.”
Metroka worked for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for 32 years. He worked in corrections, on the street and in criminal investigations, and became an expert in disaster management. “I have managed the law enforcement branch of operations at several disaster scenes, including the Bee Canyon Fire. My involvement in local, state and federal disaster management transitioned to Homeland Security and Defense around the year 2000. I am a state and federally recognized expert in this field.” Metroka also commanded RCSD’s patrol, traffic and special tactics divisions, and served as commander of a large contract city.
“The most rewarding part of my career has been my involvement in the creation of partnerships with business interests, civic groups, advisory committees, volunteers, clergy and Native Americans in efforts to better serve the community,” he noted.
Metroka and fiancée Terri Miller have a home in Fern Valley. “Now, driving up the Hill it’s a joy because I know I’m going home,” he said. “I just want to contribute and see that the needs of the community are being met. I encourage the public to share with the council what they need and want.”
Metroka has a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, San Bernardino, a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Riverside, and a series of federal state and CSU teaching certifications in Homeland Security and catastrophic event management.