There are nine candidates in three contested Smith County constable races for the March 3 primary election.
Precinct 4 Constable
Incumbent Josh Joplin, former Smith County Precinct 4 Constable John G. Smith, retired Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Charles Garrett and law firm investigator Curtis Wulf are running as Republicans. There are no Democratic challengers.
If no candidate garners more than 50% of the vote, the race will head to a runoff in May between the top two vote-getters. Smith lost the seat to Joplin in a 2016 runoff.
The precinct encompasses New Chapel Hill, Winona, Owentown, Starrville, Red Springs and Jackson Heights.
Chapel Hill native Joplin, who is seeking a second term, said the office has responded to 1,973 calls and performed over 1,600 traffic stops and assisted in animal cruelty complaints since January 2017. He also worked at the Brownsboro Police Department as a K-9 handler and warrant officer.
Joplin said relationships with the Winona and Chapel Hill school districts have been built to protect all district campuses, including a Precinct 4 deputy at Winona Elementary with cost covered by Winona ISD. Two part-time deputies, a full-time night shift deputy and a deputy for Saturday patrol were added to the office as well. Law enforcement equipment was upgraded and Joplin took education courses to learn more about the constable position, he said.
Smith served as Precinct 4 constable from 2006 to 2016 after being defeated by Joplin in a runoff election. After his announcement to run in 2020, Smith said if elected, he would continue what he was doing in the office before he left.
From June 2018 to February 2019, Smith worked with the city of Winona in a bid to reactivate its police department, which closed in 2015.
Smith was sworn in as the city’s police chief in September and later submitted his resignation in February 2019, stating that the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement requirements for reactivating the department were more than he had expected.
In the last election cycle, Smith faced steep opposition after he shot himself in the head in January 2015. Law enforcement officers said Smith had been drinking and fighting with his wife when he shot himself.
Smith maintains he has no memory of the event, but investigation reports reveal he had been more than three times the legal limit for blood alcohol content. He also was arrested on a drunk driving charges in 1992 and in 2001, Smith admitted to having been drinking when he flipped a vehicle while on the job with the sheriff’s department.
Garrett, 64, of Winona, retired from DPS in 2010 and has 37 years of law enforcement experience through his work as a driver’s license trooper, highway patrolman, narcotics K-9 handler and trainer, and working in commercial vehicle enforcement. He was defeated in the 2016 race for precinct 4 constable. He said he’s lived in Smith County Precinct 4 for 20 years.
Garrett hopes to build relationships and cooperation with agencies and government and meet with community members. Garrett has a master peace officer certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and has a special ranger commission with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Wulf, who calls himself a lifelong Republican, conservative and Christian, is an investigator at his wife’s firm, the Wulf Law Firm. He was previously a law enforcement officer at Angleton, West Columbia and Needville police departments.
He said he’s been a licensed peace officer for over 15 years with experience that includes being a patrol officer, drug interdiction, patrol supervisor, and felony investigator. He also holds an intermediate peace officer license and is a certified instructor through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and a field training officer.
He said he has training in homicide investigations, crime scene investigation, drug interdiction and assault investigations.
He graduated from the command staff leadership series from the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, and he’s owned a private investigation and process service company, which has included working for large insurance companies. He wants to take a pro-active approach to the position and community involvement.
He has been endorsed by Grassroots America — We The People and The East Texas Regional Fraternal Order of Police.
The Grassroots America endorsement noted a federal civil lawsuit, Kevin Fowler v. Smith County, Joplin, Precinct 4 constable Michael Pehl and Terry Brunk and Scott Smith, in which Fowler claims his civil rights were violated over being charged and arrested for theft of service.
Robert Davis, who serves as the attorney for Smith County and the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, called the lawsuit frivolous.
Davis said motions to dismiss were heard Feb. 6 in federal court, and both sides are waiting to hear what court judge decides.
The basis for the motions to dismiss are that a warrant for Fowler’s arrest was issued with probable cause and a Smith County grand jury issued a true-bill indictment, Davis said.
Fowler’s theft of service charge and case were later dropped in the 241st District Court. The records are not public at this time due to the case being expunged.
Fowler was acquitted based on Texas Penal Code which states the person must fail to make payment after receiving written notice (registered or certified mail or a telegram) to commit theft of service.
A different form of notice was given by Scott Smith in this incident, Fowler’s attorney Stefanie Klein has said.
Precinct 1 Constable
Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for the Smith County Precinct 1 constable race: Bobby Garmon, Willie Mims and Curtis Traylor. There are no Republican challengers in this race.
Garmon, 62, has been serving in an appointed role since 2017. The appointment came after former Constable Henry Jackson was sentenced to six months in federal prison for tax evasion.
His 40-year career includes 33 years at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office as patrol deputy and later chief deputy. He’s also led organizations as president, such as Texas Chief Deputy Association, East Texas Peace Officer Association and Tyler Jaycees.
Garmon said he has first-hand experience as constable, leadership, budget management, strategic planning, criminal investigations and employment decisions.
Mims, 51, has spent 18 years as a peace officer, including three years with the Tyler Police Department and 15 years as a deputy constable with the Smith County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office.
He said he’s donated many hours of service and supports local organizations, such as the DeWitt Masonic Lodge, NAACP and Tyler Women’s Coalition, Black Nurses Rock and the Democratic Party.
Mims said he has served thousands of civil papers throughout his time at the constable’s office, and he uses the served papers to help educate people. He wants to bring back community policing and tobacco program to decrease domestic violence, gang affiliation and selling tobacco to minors. He has coordinated the National Night Out program since 2006.
Traylor, a Tyler native, said he has roughly 13 years of experience in the criminal justice field, beginning with his time as a Texas Department of Criminal Justice corrections officer.
He has also worked in county detention at different sheriff’s offices, including Smith County under former Sheriff J.B. Smith.
Traylor wants to add a comprehensive internship for young people interested in law enforcement. He also wants to bring back the community policing program, but not based on contracts. The office would patrol and do security for public events, neighborhoods and school zones, he said.
He also wants to fight human trafficking and have a woman as second in command.
Precinct 2 Constable
Two candidates are running for Precinct 2 constable in the Republican primary: incumbent Josh Black and challenger Jason Newport. There are no Democratic challengers.
Black was appointed by the Smith County Commissioners Court to fill the two-year unexpired term after Andy Dunklin became justice of the peace for Precinct 2. Black became constable on Jan. 1 last year, according to the Smith County website.
He started his law enforcement career at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office as a detention officer in 2002. He was promoted to patrol division and worked as a deputy until 2014. He transferred to the Precinct 2 constable’s office under Dunklin, according to Black.
Black has been endorsed by Grassroots America — We the People, Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith and Smith County Precinct 5 Constable Jeff McClenny.
Newport, who is a Tyler ISD tactical officer, has been in law enforcement for 12 years. On his Facebook page, he said he’s a community member who will respond to those needing assistance in civil and criminal concerns. Newport previously ran for the constable seat in 2016.
On his campaign Facebook, Newport says he wants to serve civil papers, bailiff court, be fiscally responsible and respond to community needs. He also intends to work together with other agencies.
Newport plans to develop crime watch areas and get people involved and informed, according to his campaign.