The Most Powerful Woman in Eureka

Staff Pick

A glimpse of her uniform and cropped gray hair from an office window sends people bolting to their cars. Grown men and women plead with her for mercy. She does not negotiate. There may or may not be a Facebook page devoted to tracking her movements.

Parking Enforcement Officer Lynda Punch has been chalking tires and writing tickets for 15 years. In her first few weeks on the job, an angry man stepped into her personal space and muttered, "fuck you" over and over, just inches from her face. She was too scared to reach for her radio, but she finished writing that ticket. Damn.

Punch is not so easily intimidated these days, shifting from a soft kindergarten teacher voice to a firm dog-trainer tone when necessary. And she is nothing if not fair, having ticketed several cousins over the years. Not surprisingly, she's a stickler for the rules, making certain to clear this casual interview with her boss and refusing a free slice from a pizza guy who shall remain nameless.

If you get to your car before she's actually written the ticket on her well-worn clipboard, you have a prayer. If not, abandon all hope. And cussing her out will only get you an unpleasant note in your file. Expect that to come up in court. Mostly, she says, people are nice, some even saying "thank you" out of habit. "I've had people cry," she says, pursing her lips. And yes, she does feel bad sometimes.

Hoping to stay off her radar? Look for chalk marks on all your tires and keep an eye on the clock. She doesn't want to give you a ticket. But she will.

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