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
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)Email | Print