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December 22nd, 2008
Commissioners court picks Ratliff in emotional meeting

by SEAN WARDWELL

A standing room only audience was witness to an emotional decision by the Hays County Commissioners Court’s appointment of a new sheriff. Former Texas Ranger and newly appointed Justice of the Peace, Tommy Ratliff, is now Hays County Sheriff until 2010, when a special election will allow for citizens to choose a replacement. The Court did not unanimously appoint Ratliff, and the lone dissenter vociferously voiced his concerns.

“I have made it no secret that the appointment should come from within the department,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley. “We have great leadership inside the department. Sheriff Bridges picked that leadership; I have great faith in his judgment. And I know those individuals, I know where there heart is, and I know the work that they do for this county every day. Without a doubt they were behind us supporting somebody from within.”

Conley’s sentiment was originally echoed by Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, but he later changed his mind in an effort to maintain unity, and voted in favor of Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe’s motion to appoint Ratliff as Sheriff.

“It’s a good choice, and [Ratliff is] someone that will make a fine Sheriff,” said Barton.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford said she had several interviews with Ratliff and her decision was not easy. “This has been a difficult period for us,” said Ford. “We have had good candidates come in before us, but the Court has to take its leadership role.” Ford said Ratliff’s background with the Texas Rangers afforded him interactions with several Sheriff’s Offices which provided him “to witness the good, the bad, and the ugly.” She said his experience will only improve the already “great” Sheriff’s Department.

“All of us have the little knot in the pit of our stomach, because it is a tough decision, and it’s going to be difficult even in the process,” said Hays County Judge Liz Sumter. “I’m confident the right decision was made.” Sumter said that with every decision there will be supporters and opponents and this decision is no different; her words foreshadowed the courtrooms reaction to the appointment.

“The process which this Court has had is an embarrassing process,” said Conley. “I don’t believe we have done what our citizens expect us to do. I believe we are making a mistake.”

Hays County Sheriff’s Captain Mike Davenport said an appointment outside of the Sheriff’s Office is a “slap in the face” to the late Sheriff Allen Bridges. “Allen worked hard to build a competent team of leaders,” said Davenport. “He put the Sheriff’s Office forward in the best interest of the citizens of Hays County; this my friends is his legacy.” Davenport said that although the Sheriff’s Office cannot agree on who the new Sheriff should be, he said they “overwhelmingly” concur the appointment should come from within the department.

Barton said he would have like developing a “Board of Review” to vet all the candidates and provide Hays County with the best possible Sheriff, but added that the uncertainty felt in the department pressed for a quick decision.

Ratliff’s appointment stirred feelings of disapproval among the audience, and it was particularly evident in the heart-felt tears of Sheriff Bridges’ widow, Kathy. She would not comment on the turn of events she had earlier hoped for. The Bridges Family had formally endorsed Chief Deputy Brodbeck for Sheriff in a press conference held December 15, and asked the Court to appoint him in honor of the late Sheriff. In the press conference Kathy Bridges said Brodbeck was the logical choice. “Allen chose Chief Brodbeck, calling him back from retirement, because Allen knew he was a true man of integrity, with natural leadership qualities and above all, honesty,” said Kathy Bridges. “I ask that this appointment of Chief Brodbeck be confirmed by this Court tomorrow morning.”

Ford said Bridges had many friends in and out of law enforcement of which had his approval. “We are looking for someone who is ready to lead today.”

“Thinking about this long and hard over these last few days, and in talking to many different people both inside and out of the agency, I just felt that this was, at this time, the best decision to make,” said Ingalsbe. “I hope [the Sheriff’s Office] will come together and work with Mr. Ratliff. I think he can bring the leadership with them, I don’t think that it could be done without them… I would hope this is not a slap in the face to anyone.”

Ratliff graduated from then Southwest Texas State University in 1975, majoring in Agricultural Business. He later worked as a highway patrolman for twelve years in several cities around Texas, until being promoted to Texas Ranger in 1987. He was assigned Caldwell, Blanco, and Hays Counties in 1997, which led to the opening of the first official DPS Texas Ranger Office in San Marcos. He retired in August of 2008 and was later appointed as Justice of the Peace for Pct. 5 at a Commissioners Court meeting on October 15; he was scheduled to take office January 1, 2009.

by Andy Sevilla
Associate Editor

Kathy Bridges, widow of the late Sheriff Allen Bridges, reacts to the courts decision (photo by Andy Sevilla)

Hays County Sheriff’s Captain Mike Davenport & Deputy Steve Avalos address the court (photo by Sean Wardwell)

Charles Johnson of Wimberley displays his support for the late Sheriff (photo by Andy Sevilla)

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0 thoughts on “Commissioners court picks Ratliff in emotional meeting

  1. There were many good candidates for Sheriff. But the office does NOT belong to any one person, family, employees or political party! We are not the Illinois Governor, nor are we “destined” or “entitled” like some in New York think Ms. Kennedy is….the office of Hays County Sheriff belongs to the PEOPLE of Hays County. Emotions should NOT be running high on this critical decision which effects ALL people in Hays County, not just current employees. The Commissioners Court {for once} acted in the best interest of ALL citizens today by appointing a man who can represent us all and lead a great force of deputies to protect the citizens whom they ultimately serve! Partisan politics sucks Comm. Conley,and you are a better man than that but today you disappoint those of us who crossed party lines to vote for you last month.

  2. Good job Commissioners, or at least all but one of you. This office is not owned by any one family and it isn’t the property of the department either. It is OURS, the people of Hays County! “Kingdoms” are why we had the revolutionary war and left England!

  3. In all your talks about “for the citizens” remember that the employees of the sheriff’s office are citizens of Hays County as well. We don’t ship them in every morning…While I agree with the decision made by the commissioners you guys need to stop bashing the officers for expressing their right to free speech as well. It is their department as much as it is the citizens, if not a little more, because they make it what it is today…an outstanding agency.

  4. Im grateful that the Commissioners Court was able to perform outside of politics and emotions, and instead led with forethought as to who would be best for Hays County. With that said, Ratliff was already going to serve in a good capacity as Justice of the Peace, Im sure he will be a great Sheriff, but now another important office is left vacant. The legal/justice system is not a joke and should be taken seriously – people should honor the commitments they make.
    On other note, I feel bad for the widow and am sad that she did not embrace the decision of the court and instead is hurting over it. She has had enough grief, and in my opinion should have perhaps not been involved in this situation – given that the Bridges family does not own the Sheriffs seat, but the people of Hays County! This picture of her shows how hurt she is and how overwhelmingly hard this must be on her. She’s been through enough, she should stay away from the court, it’ll just bring more grief.

  5. Thank you to the Commisioners for their decision. I believe that Mr. Ratliff will be just fine. I believe that this town needs a little influence of other towns and not just inside jobs for the sake of inside jobs.I believe all the canidates were fine people. Also it is just two years for now. The we vote. I am truly sorry if people were devastated by this but do belive that it will be ok. I welcome the change and for all the other canidates they will all work great together!

  6. With all due respect, you don’t appoint someone to fill an office to honor someone who has died.
    If you want to honor Sheriff Bridges, then I suggest doing something like making a donation in his name to the many charities he supported or setting up a scholarship at Texas State University in his name. THAT would be a lasting legacy for him.
    Our Commissioners made a very difficult decision, but their first concern was- (correctly)-to find the best person to be our sheriff. That doesn’t mean that some of the other folks weren’t qualified, but it does mean that at this time, appointing someone from outside the department, but who has worked with the department and knows the folks, was the best choice and I wholeheartedly agree.
    My heart aches for Mrs. Bridges, but I think she was badly used by someone, and I hope that they realize the extra hurt they brought to this family.

  7. hmmm. very interesting how after the vote was finalized, the false (slanderous) accusations by Larry against one of the candidates is not to be found on here. hope it’s the heat being turned up on someone playing dirty pool.

    i hope the talent that exists inside the sheriff’s office will be realized with the new sheriff. i hope that the retired on active duty old guard will leave and allow the sheriff’s office to progress.

  8. It amazes me the entitlement some people/families feel they have over an elected office. Yes, the greatly-loved Sheriff unfortunately died, and yes his family was left with an enormous void in their life, however, The legal/political process is out of their hands. Hays County citizens elected those 5 individuals that sit on the court, we as a community put our trust in their judgement, and they decided on someone. NOBODY has to be happy or mad about it, it is not up to us, it’s up to the court. We can change the outcome of this decision in 2010, hell we can even change those on the court that made this decision if we really want to in 2010. Perhaps the best choice was not made, perhaps it was, nonetheless the court decided and it’s a done deal. The choice was up to those 5 people on the court, not the Bridges family, not the sheriff’s office, not the Huddleston crowd, not the Brodbeck crowd, not the Kidd crowd – it’s done. Unfortunately the Sheriff’s widow decided to put herself in the political process, and by doing so, only increased more suffering, and that is unfortunate, and she was probably manipulated by heartless individuals/groups. I hope she and her family are ok, and that God Blesses them in these troubling times.
    On another note, who will be our JP for precinct 5 now? won’t the seat be vacant come the new year, which is only a blink away. This whole thing is honestly a mess.

  9. Apparently there is still no mention on to who will be the new JP for precinct 5. The whole process, as Conley said, “is an embarassing process.” I believe like Conley, that the court has not acted like how we (the citizens) expect them to.
    You can’t just let a JP seat vacant! it will have nobody running it a week from now… this whole ordeal is a mess!!

  10. Duh, you can’t expect the Court to “just appoint a new JP” without any thought! Get real {and off your hidden agenda}. It’s not like the “world will end” if the JP court is vacant a few days {which it isn’t!}. Should you take the time to READ then you’d know the Court has asked the retiring JP to stay on a short time {under the law it’s called “the holdover provision” for circumstances like this}. SO, relax “David” and chill. All is well in Hays County. The court has the luxury of time to choose a good person and not “rush to judgement” as you seem to want them to! And, learn to get your facts straight. Might mean less stress in your life.

  11. Actually “Andrews” my facts are straight, the court has not appointed someone to fill the seat of JP for Precint 5, and to address your other issue on asking Lamont to stay on until a replacement is found, that is just it, they have ASKED, it is not for certain. Im sure he will stay on until a suitable replacement is found, however that has not been confirmed, since we are talking about facts.. and also, I dont have a hidden agenda, I can care less if the court feels Ratliff is the best person for the Sheriff’s job, I have spoke on this, it is their decision! and to be honest I dont care who fills the seat of the precint 5 JP, that’s not my precinct. I just feel that the court should better address appointments, if they are not going to fullfil a prior commitment!!

  12. See, “David”, that IS the difference. Like most responsible citizens and the Commissioners Court, I DO care who is appointed Sheriff and Justice of the Peace.
    {which brings up the question, if YOU don’t care, then why are you so bothered by the timing? nothing else to do?} The court is trying to be responsible and appoint qualified people for positions they must fill, not just “hurry and make an appointment” that they—and all of us who care– regret later. That is called common sense and responsible leadership, government. The Court did not cause the vacancy in the Sheriff’s department, no one did intentionally. Tragedy struck. And to think the court would bypass the best candidate to fill the slot {Ratliff} just because it would cause another vacancy would be dumb and not in the citizens best interest. So the Court appointed Ratliff. NO reasonable person would expect the court to always have an “appointee in waiting” for every position just in case some one dies or resigns—that’s stupid. So, vacancies do form time to time exist for short periods. No big deal {see history, happens all the time}. Trying to make a stink about such a little deal {short time of vacancy} does no one any good. If you need stress and frustration in your life, then go sit in Austin traffic where planning is an obscene word. By the way, I don’t see the residents of JP 5 panicking these days, selling their houses and possessions ’cause they are “so worried about the vacancy”. why? ’cause they aren’t worried either!!! Relax, dude. Not worth stroking out about!

  13. As I mentioned before things are going to be ok. Persuasion and Justice are two different things. Emotions were high as expected. That is nobody’s fault. I am sorry you all feel you need to bring up all the hurt around this issue. This is also by the way the first time I have truly been dissapointed in Mr. Conely. He spoke to much. Ratliff, again, is an honorable man with much to contribute to the job at hand. I do not believe the late Sheriff would be pleased with all the bickering. Please get over this.

  14. Hopefully the court will address all of our concerns over the JP office on its planned New Years eve meeting. The discussion over who the Sheriff should be, or who the late Allen Bridges would have wanted to should be over, the decision has been made. And to address everyone’s concerns over the JP precint 5, I would like to say that the court will make a rational decision as they see fit, and again, if us, the citizens, dont like it, then we could change that outcome when it comes up in the ballot.

  15. How sad.. the widow looks so distressed, but the court does have to do their job. Such an unfortunate way to bring in the new year for Hays County. Is Conley the only supporter of the Bridges’ family and the Sheriff’s Office? or is Ratliff honestly the best person for the job?
    Im just curious, Im not well acquainted with the local politics, but it seems even a small county has the potential to play dirty, or very fair – I guess it depends on who u ask.

  16. Is there any mention or thought of as to who will fill the office of the JP for precint 5 yet? Who is serving it now? was the county successful in getting Ramage to stay on until a suitable candidate is appointed?

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