By LeaAnne Klentzman
The first of many Republican Sheriff candidate’s forums has come and it ended with a bang.
In closing the fireworks began. Candidate Craig Brady began the closing statements by saying that he was the most qualified to continue to lead the sheriff’s office. Then he went off on a tangent nastily calling out at a retired DPS Trooper, now Nehls employee, seated at the back of the room. He said something about …being a grinning opossum and then a couple of personal attacks. One of the moderators told him to stop, and he eventually went back to his closing statements.
Several local Republican women’s groups sponsored the forum for the four men who are vying for the top position on the Republican ticket in November of 2012. Those four candidates are, alphabetically, Craig Brady, John Minchew, Troy Nehls, and Billy Frank Teague.
Before a packed house, the moderators told each candidate that the purpose of the event was for them to explain their platform and to tell the citizens what they could and would do for them; there was to be no sniping nor nasty exchanges.
After drawing numbers for placement, Billy Frank Teague began by telling the standing room only crowd that he was a tried, proven conservative with the experience and training to run the sheriff’s office. He said he had 45 years of law enforcement experience serving as a patrol officer in Arlington, Texas in the 1970’s then moving to Fort Bend County and working under Sheriffs Tiny Gaston and Ervin Hurta before accepting a position with Texas DPS in 1982.
Teague retired from DPS, worked in private business for several years before getting back into law enforcement as a division commander with the Richmond police department for several years until he retired late last year to run for Sheriff. Teague said he had been married to his best friend for 37 years, and they have five children and five grandchildren. Teague said what he brings to the Sheriff’s Office is integrity, experience, and the ability to lead.
The next candidate to speak was Craig Brady. He started by telling those in attendance that he believed that voter apathy is the problem in this country. He went on to say that he has 32 years of law enforcement experience across all divisions at the sheriff’s office. He said he was married and has five children and two step-children. He said he began his career in Palestine, Texas in 1978 then worked for Rosenberg police department before moving to the sheriff‘s office in late 1981.
Brady said that he took exception with the use of statistics that his opponent Troy Nehls has posted on billboards across the county. The billboards indicate that the sheriff’s office burglary clearance rate is only 4%. Brady said that is not true, although he acknowledged that since 2010 there were computer errors, that the clearance rate is actually 14.23%. He closed by quoting Will Rogers, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Next up was Troy Nehls. He said he had 19 years of law enforcement experience and had served the last 7 of those years as constable of Fort Bend County Precinct 4. Nehls identified three reasons why he is running for sheriff; an only 4% burglary clearance rate for the sheriff‘s office since 1999, fiscal mismanagement, and personnel mismanagement. Nehls said as far back as he could find (1999) in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, based on the statistics provided to the state and federal government by the sheriff’s office itself, there has never been more than a 5% burglary solved rate in all that time. He said what crime is occurring, is not getting solved. When addressing personnel mismanagement, he said he believed that having detectives available for more than day shift would increase the solve rate.
The final candidate to speak was John Minchew. He said contrary to the information his opponents are spreading, he does have a background in law enforcement. He said he began his law enforcement career in Houston in 1978 then went back home to Florida in 1982 where he went to work for and eventually was appointed chief of a Florida Railroad. In 1992, after hurricane Andrew wiped out their family home, they returned to Texas.
Upon returning to Texas Minchew went to work for and became an executive for the Wackenhut Corporation and gained an extensive background in jail and prison management and service. After he left Wackenhut he and his wife began their own security companies that they currently operate. Minchew said as a director for the Pecan Grove MUD, he became aware of many problems with the contract deputy program offered by the sheriff. He said his experience in owning and operating his own businesses affords him the opportunity to identify the mismanagement of monies and personnel at the sheriff’s office. He said his platform is all business and service.
The first question from the floor was: How will you change the leadership team?
Teague said the sheriff’s office has dedicated employees who need to be led by ethical and moral standards. He said he has the integrity, leadership, service and vision to take the sheriff’s office because he knows and understands where it has been, where it is now, and where it needs to be.
Brady said he would not change much. They would cooperate with other agencies more although they do a great job now, he said. He again said he would not change much claiming the current is the best in the state.
Nehls said he wanted to be very clear that future employment is not at stake for those who work. When he talks about mismanagement, he is talking about the administration not the employees who want to work. He will help them by providing the employees with the tools to get the job done.
Minchew said this business of terminations are out of the question. He said if he terminated everyone like the rumors floating around, there would be no one to work. He said he would run the sheriff’s office with the integrity that is the basis for the oath of office. He said his platform is about work and business.
The second question was: When you take office, please identify two areas of concern.
Brady identified his first concern as cooperation and communication with the public. He wants to institute an internet program with HOA’s. His second concern is that he wants to start a gang unit. He said Sheriff Wright, for some reason, never was interested.
Nehls identified his two concerns as improving the crime solve rate and better fiscal management. He said there is one take home county car for every 5 employees at the sheriff ’s office.
Minchew said he believes that it is imperative that he sheriff’s office have a mental health unit. He also identified problems with the dispatch center and believes that the current problems in management throughout the department will resolve themselves with a new sheriff and new ideas.
Teague said he believed that fiscal responsibility and real management from the top of the organization to the boots on the ground was the key to better serving the citizens of Fort Bend County.
In his closing, Nehls said he was a big supporter of civil service and that the 23 promotions that had just been made at Christmas time were not in compliance with any kind of civil service. He said his statistics were not fuzzy math and they were developed on the numbers provided by the sheriff’s office.
Minchew in closing said since numbers were such a hot topic he was not going to touch them. He outlined the qualifications for a sheriff in the State of Texas and said what makes him qualified is his ability to run a business which is what the sheriff’s office is…a 53 million dollar business.
As Teague closed, he thanked everyone and reminded them he was the most experienced, and the most conservative. He committed that he would serve Fort Bend County with integrity, not bending the rules for anyone, no matter who they are. Integrity, service and leadership are his platform, and he vowed to never embarrass, disappoint, or sully the office of sheriff.