Lynda Nahra, president of Pacific Western Bank’s Central Coast Region, describes the community’s willingness to get involved as pivotal to its sucess and long-term health. “When you come to town, you see that example of commitment that everybody has to making the local environment and the world a better place,” she says. (Noozhawk file photo)

Lynda Nahra proudly complimented the interior of the soon-to-be newest Pacific Western Bank branch in Santa Barbara.

As the bank’s Central Coast region president, Nahra recently walked through the still mostly empty space at 30 E. Figueroa St., admiring an open floor plan that will be unveiled to customers Monday.

Nahra, a long-time Santa Barbara resident, considers the branch opening as a way to fill the only gap in her region of banks spanning Westlake Village to Paso Robles.

“I think it’s going to be a great location for us,” Nahra said of the space just off State Street, across from La Arcada. “It was the only real hole in our market.”

The banker with four decades of experience also notes it will be nice to have an office near her home and the long-running list of nonprofit organizations and boards she devotes “free time” to.

Nahra told Noozhawk she’s on a mission to grow the Pacific Western brand, a company she has been with since August 2011 after stepping down from a position as CEO of Community West Bank. She left to spend time with her ailing late husband, John, who succumbed to his heart condition and other health issues last year.

She has come back to work with a new determination as one of four regional Pacific Western presidents in California.

“Running a public company is a lot of work,” Nahra said of her previous job, noting with a smile that her husband lived 13 years when doctors gave him just five. “I was running out of steam. I made a decision for my family.”

She said she has never been more confident about a life choice.

Nahra moved to the Central Coast in 1997 with her late husband and worked her way up the ranks at her former bank, spending more than a decade at its helm.

Not bad for someone who started as a junior bank teller in San Diego.

“I grew up in banking,” she said. “Our bank is very dedicated to the community. We’re laser-focused on business. We help businesses succeed; that’s really what we’re about.”

Last week, the bank’s holding company, PacWest Bancorp of Century City, received final regulatory approval for its $231 million merger with Westlake Village-based First California Financial Group Inc., parent of First California Bank.

Officials say the deal is expected to close by the end of the month, with the conversion of First California 15 branches to the Pacific Western brand by mid-June.

As part of Pacific Western’s community commitment in Santa Barbara, the 30-year-old publicly held institution is planning a future grand opening to benefit the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

Nahra is involved in a number of organizations, including Santa Barbara Partners in Education, NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners), Rotary Club of Montecito, and service on several other boards.

The May opening of the branch, which is the 67th Pacific Western location, will also feature displayed artwork of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Thomas Kelsey.

Nahra said she’s excited about the opening and the great people who will staff the branch, including Catharine Manset, senior vice president Santa Barbara market manager.

“We’re doing some really unique things,” said Nahra, who also has an office in Ventura. “I live here, I love it, and I know it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.