While the Hays community is still recovering from the loss of Sheriff Allen Bridges, questions about who will fill his shoes have been on the minds of many.The final decision falls into the hands of the Hays County Commissioners Court.
County Judge Liz Sumter said the Court does not have the option to call for a special election, but instead has the obligation to appoint someone to carry out the remainder of the two-year term.
“It is likely that we have to appoint twice,” Sumter said. “Once to finish the term out that the Sheriff was holding and that ends Dec. 31, and then the new term that starts Jan. 1, 2009. The court, though, only appoints until the next general election which is in 2010.”
By law, the Chief Deputy Sheriff automatically assumes the Sheriff’s position until initial action is taken by the Court.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said he was inundated with phone calls and e-mails from members of the community who were concerned about who the new Sheriff would be. He said many of them offered him advice about who would make an appropriate Sheriff.
“First we’re going to spend some time mourning,” Barton said. “People have argued to me that Sheriff Bridges was a Republican and he should be replaced by a Republican. Others have argued to me that there were two people in the race and one of them has been taken from us and it should automatically go to Bill Huddleston, who had the gumption to run for Sheriff and got a lot of votes.”
Barton said while these were two of several considerations, there is also the idea of appointing a “caretaker” who will carry out the rest of the two-year term and agree not to run for re-election. He said his own preference is to bring someone in who will provide long-term stability.
“But I do recognize that there is a competing school of thought, that I respect, that instead we should just maximize stability in this time of trauma and take somebody who would just be in this caretaker role, maybe somebody from within the department who would agree not to run on their own right, but just manage the department until 2010,” he said.
“There are a lot of people I want to reach out to for advice before I make a decision.”
The caretaker role is something Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley has in mind as well. He suggested Chief Deputy Sherman Broadbeck to be appointed as an Independent, agree not to run for re-election and fill the remainder of the two-year term. He said that was the best solution for the Sheriff’s office and for their constituents while the political process worked itself out.
“I think it is politically fair,” Conley said. “The last thing we need right now is more turmoil and people upside down at the Sheriff’s office. We are all shocked by the loss of our Sheriff and we’re still trying to get on our feet.”
Conley said by appointing Broadbeck to the position, both parties would have more time to look for a candidate to run for election in 2010.
“It gives each party a seat at the 50-yard-line, if you will, and an equal opportunity to take the Sheriff’s position back and officially start 2011,” he said.
Whatever the Court’s final decision may be, it is being put on hold out of respect for Bridges family and friends.
“We certainly will take decisive action fairly quickly,” Sumter said. “But right now we’re really focusing on supporting the family.”
by Rasmi Hunt
Photo by Andy SevillaEmail | Print