Rusk Sheriff Candidates Talk Runoff
By KELLY GOOCH
HENDERSON -- Rusk County sheriff candidates gave their approaches to the position as they prepare to hit the campaign trail before this summer's runoff.
A six-person race for the Republican nomination has dwindled to two candidates -- former Chief Sheriff's Deputy Darryl Norris and Jeff Price, a lieutenant with the Henderson Police Department. They will challenge each other July 31. Whoever wins will face the lone Democratic candidate Oscar Still in the general election.
Both men said they expected a runoff and are pleased to be part of it.
"We're excited about it, and we're just going to keep on plugging along for another couple of months and hope for the best," Norris, 46, said.
Price, 47, said he too feels "pretty good" about making it this far and now has more hard work ahead of him.
His strategy, he said, will be to continue talking with people and encouraging them to vote.
"We've got several people doing a lot of thinking. We're going to get together pretty quick to decide and try and figure out exactly which direction we're going," Price said.
"Everybody is tired. This thing has drug on for so long. Everybody's tired of the phone calls, stuff in the mail ... Not only them but us, too."
Norris said he will try to spend more time in areas where he didn't get as many votes and see people in those areas.
As candidates make those efforts, they're discussing their take on the sheriff position and issues they would address.
Price said there would be changes made under his leadership. However, specifics on what those changes might look like have not been determined.
"Once I get in there, there will be a few changes that will be made personnel wise to begin with. You're just going to have some of those changes that occur. There's not going to be many, but there will be some (immediately). Other changes will be subtle and over a period of time," he said.
He added, "I'm not going to come in and just change everything overnight and expect everybody to do it this way. It's going to be a learning process and learning curve for me and the employees there."
Norris said he also has ideas in regard to personnel.
For instance, when he was chief deputy, administrators got out and helped patrol once they were done in the office, and he plans on doing that as sheriff.
Norris said he also believes the working relationship with smaller agencies in the county is "pretty weak."
"They know in the past when I was chief deputy, anytime they needed anything I was there to help whenever I could," he said. "They know if I get back in there, I will be there for them. I've always worked well with them and always worked well with the commissioners."
Norris also stressed the importance of using the people in the sheriff's office. In the current economy, he said he has no grand ideas of getting any extra help, so the people already there need to get out on the roads.
"I've always said, 'I'm not going to tell the guys 'Y'all need to do this.' I'm going to be out there with them, doing it with them, showing them how to do it ...," Norris said.
"We're not troopers. (The Texas Department of Public Safety) does a good job taking care of the highways. They need to be out there taking care of people's farms and houses and taking care of these county roads and the school zones out in the county."
Price agreed, saying he wants to get deputies back in the county's residential areas and communities that do not have a law enforcement agency.
"It's a matter of getting the uniform patrol deputy to understand what I want and getting them into the habit of doing that. ... Getting them back into 'This is the way I want it done' and to change their patrol routines," he said.
Price said he also wants to try to streamline the department and make it more efficient with the personnel it has.
That means trying to move personnel around to strengthen places that are lacking or weak, he said, as well as areas that have too many people involved.
So "changing job descriptions, moving some people around, just trying to fill in any place that's lacking and trying to find the people who possess certain skills for certain jobs," Price said.
As far as other key issues, Norris said he is a big proponent of training and learned a lot of new information through his own training experience. Therefore, he wants to do as much training in-house as possible and would like for employees to have a master peace officer's license or at least an advanced license.
"The more training you can get them, the more confident they'll be and the better job (they'll do)," he said.
If elected, Norris also wants to work with the K-9 unit.
He said for almost eight years, he went to each school once a month with the drug dog and would like to get that started back up.
"It's not that we really found a lot of drugs. I'd always make a couple circles around the school so all the kids could see me ...," Norris said.
"I'm a big believer in that. I try to get with the kids and I talk to a few kids and ask 'What in the world is the deal?' and basically the drugs are so easy to get. There's not really a deterrent to keep them from getting it. I just try to educate them and adults for that matter on the dangers of that mess."
They've spent months campaigning, but both candidates had specific things they wanted voters to know as the runoff approaches.
Price, who has been with the Henderson Police Department 28 years, said he's had more time in service but is "fairly equal" to his opponent training-wise.
"I know how to work budgets. I know how to deal with personnel issues (and) hiring practices. I'm very well acquainted with all those," he said.
Norris described himself as someone who is "going to do what I say" and addressed his faith.
"I've thought from the very first if the good Lord wants me in there, He's going to make it happen, but if he doesn't put me in there then he's got something better in store ...," he said.
A "man told me once 'If you love your job, you never spend a day at work,' and that's kind of how I felt about that place."