Jail debuts Low-Risk Facility
Friends and colleagues came together Friday evening to honor the careers of two longtime elected officials and three longtime county employees.
During the retirement celebration, attendees stood in line to shake hands and speak with Sheriff J.B. Smith, Chief Deputy Bobby Garmon, Chief Deputy Gary Pinkerton, Information Technology Director Harvy Tanner and Precinct 5 Constable Dennis Taylor. The five combine for more than 130 years of service in Smith County.
Smith, who was elected in 1976, will end his 36-year tenure as sheriff on Dec. 31.
He said he will take away friendships and has encouraged the people who work for him to always try to do better. He has had numerous deputies go on to other entities such as the FBI and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
But he said there are things he won't miss.
"I think the things won't miss is the tragedies that kept me awake at night. I'm not going to miss the phone call at 3 in the morning telling me I've got a deputy hurt. ... That's the pressure that I'm glad to get rid of ..." Smith said, adding that he's made it through by keeping a sense of humor and has followed philosophies of a lot of great people.
"The most important thing to me is that I was rehired by the public for 36 years, and every four years, they said, 'We still want you,' and I feel like that says you're doing a good job. I feel like I have added value to them, and they have definitely added value to my life."
He said he will now continue writing books, speaking and representing Smith County and Tyler to the world. He said he plans to do a book signing in England, and he has a book that is currently being printed in Chinese.
"I'm part now hopefully of a good legacy and give the new sheriff a chance to create his own," Smith said.
Garmon has been with the sheriff's office for 32 years and served as Smith's second-in-command since 2003. He is the former president of the Texas Chief Deputies Association, the East Texas Peace Officers' Association and Tyler Jaycees. Garmon has served on the board of directors of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Ebenezer Church and CASA of Texas.
Garmon said Friday evening that he felt good about his career.
"I enjoyed the work I did for the county," he said. "I could have worked somewhere else making (more money), but I know the county. This is all I've been doing, so why go somewhere else and start over? ... I thank the citizens of Smith County for letting me stay here this long."
He also wished the best for the new sheriff-elect.
As for himself, he said he is not really retiring but instead will "gear down." He said he will still be active in the community and has had job offers but hasn't decided whether he will have a full-time job.
Pinkerton has served as the top jail administrator for 17 years and has been with the sheriff's office for 28 years.
He received the Jerry Baggs Leadership Award from the Texas Jail Association for his leadership and excellence in the profession of county corrections in 2009. Pinkerton also served as the first African-American president of the Texas Jail Association in 2002.
Pinkerton said he thinks he's served Smith County residents well.
When he started out, he said he never dreamed he would end up where he did. However, he said he believes in hard work and dedication, and Smith "believed in giving me a chance and gave me an opportunity."
He plans to relax for about a month and then go back to work.
Taylor was elected as Precinct 5 Constable in 1980. He implemented a drug interdiction unit, a school security liaison service with Lindale and numerous community watch programs around the precinct. He was named the Lindale "Citizen of the Year" in 2001.
Tanner worked for Smith County for eight years.
Smith said he's done a great job helping the sheriff's office with the transition of new equipment and the new technology era.
Attendees at the retirement celebration also commended the longtime Smith County workers and wished them well.
One of those attendees was Smith County Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Armstrong, who has known Smith since 1972 and credits him with getting her back home to East Texas.
She said she will remember most the support, dedication and love that the men have given to volunteers.
Now, she said they're going on to "bigger and better things."
"Wherever they go, they'll do a good job, and I love them with all my heart," Ms. Armstrong said. "Wherever they go, they'll be a success."
Navarro County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Mike Cox served with Garmon and Pinkerton on the board of the Texas Chief Deputies Association.
He said they've been a great help to his sheriff's office.
Friend Leo Britton said he will miss the men.
"J.B.'s been good with whatever he did. I've known him for years. We've been good friends, and they've done a wonderful job -- all of them," he said.
"They're my friends. I just wish them well."
While Smith gets closer to his last day on the job, Smith County Sheriff-elect Larry Smith said he is getting ready to start on Jan. 1.
He said he will try to take what Smith has brought to sheriff's office and "go from there."
"I'm looking forward to taking what he's done and making it even better," he said.
This report contains excerpts from Tyler Morning Telegraph archives.