Gary Cutler won election Tuesday night as Hays County sheriff.
By SEAN BATURA
Republican Gary Cutler soundly defeated Democratic opponent Tommy Ratliff in a race for Hays County sheriff that focused on the state of the county jail.
Cutler won with 55.73 percent of ballots cast, compared to Ratliff’s 44.27 percent. Among the 40,074 Hays County citizens who voted in the General Election, 38,706 cast ballots in the sheriff race.
Cutler was not immediately available for comment.
“We are respectful of the voters of the county,” Ratliff said after the election results were revealed. “We ran a very straightforward, professional, very clean campaign, and we’re very proud of that. We tried to stick to issues and stuff that’s pertinent to taking care of the citizens of the county, and we’re really happy that we did run that kind of campaign. And we don’t have a problem looking at ourselves in the mirror in the morning, because we know that we ran a clean campaign. We’re respectful of the citizens, and we’ll be glad to help in the transition of this office to the next group.”
Ratliff declined to say whether he intends to run for sheriff again.
Ratliff expressed support for a future policy whereby cities would contribute to the operation and maintenance of the county jail in proportion to number of prisoners they send. Cutler called such a policy a double tax on citizens. The jail is funded entirely by the county. Costs rose sharply in the last year due to the county’s efforts to come back into compliance with state jail standards after several failed inspections. The county jail passed its last two inspections.
Ratliff stood by his decision to invite the April 2009 Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection of the county jail at the risk of failing the inspection. Ratliff told Hays County commissioners court two weeks before the inspection that the jail needed repairs. Cutler said he would never invite an inspection unless he believed the jail would pass. Cutler said Ratliff did not take proper care of the jail, while Ratliff said the jail’s problems existed before he was appointed to the position in 2008.
Cutler expressed enthusiastic support for an electronic monitoring program in lieu of jail time for certain offenders, while Ratliff offered more cautious support for such a future program. Ratliff said such a program would be expensive and require more space and personnel than the sheriff’s office currently has. The commissioners court recently authorized an expansion of the county jail and nearby sheriff’s office patrol division headquarters, an action both Ratliff and Cutler said they support.
On the campaign trail, Cutler enthusiastically supported the institution of an officer disciplinary procedure based on the Loudermill concept. During a debate in September, Ratliff said the department currently treats officers fairly, and he said proponents of a new disciplinary procedure may find it too harsh and should “be careful about what they ask for because they may get it,” though he said he would consider it.
Ratliff, a retired Texas Ranger, was appointed to sheriff in December 2008 after Allen Bridges, who had won re-election as sheriff in November 2008, then died from a heart attack a month later. Ratliff said as he accepted the position that he would run for the remainder of the term in 2010.Email | Print