Constables, Sheriff Spots Up In Anderson
By BETTY WATERS
Challengers in the Anderson County Republican primaries on Tuesday are seeking to oust the sheriff and constables for precincts 1 and 3.
In the sheriff's race, incumbent Greg Taylor faces Richard Welch. A primary win for either candidate will be tantamount to winning the office since there is no Democrat running for the office in the November general election.
In the Precinct 1 constable race, Jeffrey Taylor is battling Ronnie Foster for the Republican nomination and the nominee will face incumbent Democrat Larry Bennett in the general election. Bennett has no opponent in the primaries.
In the Precinct 3 constable primary, longtime incumbent Kimberly Dickson and Ronnie Holcomb are vying for the Republican nomination. The winner will not have any opposition in the general election.
Precinct 2 incumbent Constable Doug Lightfoot does not have an opponent in the Republican primary, but will be opposed in the general election by Democrat Horace Poullard.
Unopposed in the Republican primaries and the general election are incumbents Tax Assessor-Collector Teri Gavrey, Precinct 3 Commissioner Kenneth Dickson and Precinct 4 Constable Gary Briley.
With 30 years of experience in law enforcement, including the past eight as sheriff, Greg Taylor, 49, said tremendous improvement in operation of the sheriff's office has been achieved during his tenure in training, equipment, response time, professionalism and integrity.
Taylor started his career at age 19 with the Rusk Police Department, then worked 11 years for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and worked up to lieutenant. After serving as a reserve deputy, he was hired as a patrol deputy for Anderson County Sheriff's Department in 1995 and was promoted to captain in 1997. He was elected sheriff in 2005.
His opponent, Welch, 39, has served as a police officer with the Palestine Police Department for four years. He worked for the Anderson County Sheriff's Department from 2005 to 2009. He worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 10 years and also worked briefly for the Whitehouse Police Department. He was in the army three years and the National Guard 6 1/2 years.
Welch said he was asked by a lot people to run and that he sees a lot of changes that need to be made in the sheriff's office. He said he knows he would do a better job than the current sheriff and if citizens will give him a chance, they will see the results.
Welch charged that the sheriff's office is not being run efficiently and with the leadership and experience.
The sheriff's office is being run by a politician and not a public servant and it is being led by intimidation, Welch further claimed.
Greg Taylor called the allegations "absolutely ludicrous."
Taylor said he is proud of the work his staff does. "I and they work hard every day to make this county a better place to live and will continue to do that and will try to improve operations every day," he said.
In a time of tight governmental budgets when all law enforcement agencies need more officers and more equipment, Greg Taylor said the sheriff office's has done a good job of doing more with less and maintaining a high level of professionalism and integrity and response.
He said the sheriff office has obtained grants, donations, utilized seizures from criminals and taken advantage of every way to improve operations while defraying cost to taxpayers.
Greg Taylor pointed out the sheriff's office also works closely with the DARE program with children in schools and started a Dare to Ride program that provides refurbished bikes to children.
Welch said he would "control the budget better" instead of doubling the budget as he said Greg Taylor has done since he has been sheriff. Greg Taylor says he's a conservative yet he's doubled the budget, Welch charged, claiming the sheriff department's budget has increased from about $2.5 million to more than $4 million under Taylor's leadership. He further charged that the sheriff runs over budget every year.
Greg Taylor responded that the county added 300 beds to the jail facility since he has been sheriff, increasing operating costs.
"We've added jailers, increased the jail population, food costs are on the rise and gasoline on the rise," Greg Taylor said.
The budget has increased as needed and the sheriff's office works well within its budget, he said. "If we have ever run over, it's due to rising prices, medical costs and things out of my control," Greg Taylor said. "We are very frugal with tax dollars."
Welch said a public servant is needed to run the sheriff's office. Charging the office is not structured properly, Welch said he would structure the office differently. He claimed a captain being over the patrol division and criminal investigation division currently is a conflict of interest when internal affairs investigations arise.
Welch said he would bring back the K-9 unit to strengthen drug interdiction. The specialized unit would be flexible and work varied schedules based on intelligence and information from confidential informants, Welch said.
PRECINCT 1 CONSTABLE
Candidates for the Republican nomination for Precinct 1 constable are currently employed by the Anderson County Sheriff's Office. Foster, 46 an investigator has worked for the sheriff's department since 1996 and Jeffrey Taylor, 49, has been a deputy two years. Both have been associated with other law enforcement agencies
Foster, who worked for Palestine Police Department six years, said, "There's a need in the southern part of the county for more help from law enforcement ,and I feel I could be an asset to the community (to help) Palestine Police Department and the sheriff's office."
Foster added, "I believe a massive amount of teamwork is necessary to hopefully curtail the criminal element but also to make a difference in our community and to get people involved in our well-being and our future."
Foster said he would assist the police department and sheriff's office with criminal investigations. He added that he would forge an alliance between the community and law enforcement.
The Precinct 1 constable's office is in need of modernization, Foster also said.
Jeffrey Taylor has almost 20 years of experience in law enforcement, also having served as a deputy sheriff and district attorney investigator in Houston County. He worked with the Texas Narcotics Control Program with the governor's office and for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice 10 years.
Observing an abundance of narcotics trafficking in Anderson County and a high rate of traffic accidents in the south end of the county, Jeffrey Taylor said he would focus on illegal narcotics trafficking and traffic enforcement as well as try to combat a rash of burglaries.
Jeffrey Taylor said there is not a good working relationship between the constable's office now and the sheriff office but he would work to get a good relationship.
"I just want to make this a better and safer place. It's time for a change," Taylor said. He vowed to listen to complaints and concerns.
PRECINCT 3 CONSTABLE
Ms. Dickson, who has served as Precinct 3 constable 10 years, is opposed by Ronnie Holcomb, a warrant officer and transport supervisor for the Anderson County Sheriff's Department, in her bid for the Republican nomination for a new term.
Holcomb, 62, who was a building contractor 30 years before joining the sheriff's department about seven years ago, said he has the desire, the experience and the education to serve as constable.
Ms. Dickson, 45, said she has worked hard as constable and would continue to work hard in a new term. "I take my job very seriously. ... I would continue to do my job and keep this a professional office," Ms. Dickson said. "I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do; I would continue to do that. I'm here for the constituents in my precinct and everybody in Anderson County."
Holcomb said he has 1,500 hours of training from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. He
has taken the civil process class three times and undergoes ongoing training every year.
Ms. Dickson said she has more than 4,000 law enforcement training hours, a civil process proficiency certificate, a bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice from The University of Texas and a master peace officers license.
Holcomb said that if elected, he would take care of the judge in Precinct 3, would try to assist anybody that needed anything and would be available and try to cut down on crime. He said he would fight illegal dumping and work closely with the two schools in the precinct.
Ms. Dickson said she has turned the constable office into a working, functional office with a productive work environment.
She serves civil process papers, performs routine patrol and has been involved in high-speed chases, family violence calls and other types of service calls.
Ms. Dickson said she works with the sheriff's department, the highway patrol and the game warden. She also strives of litter abatement. Her policy on illegal dumping is that if she digs through dumped litter and finds a name, she gives the dumper 48 hours to pick it up and if they do, she does not write a citation.
"I feel they learn something if they have to pick up trash they dumped," Ms. Dickson said.