Pirtle says he will miss being Rusk Co. sheriff
Danny Pirtle is leaving his decades-long law enforcement career behind, but he still is dedicated to residents.
The 66-year-old Rusk County sheriff's last day is New Year's Eve.
Pirtle, who did not seek re-election, said he is "kind of down" about his departure.
"The citizens put me in office in 2008, and I feel I've accomplished a lot in the short time ..." he said. "I wanted to go another term or so, but it wasn't (possible). I had seven major surgeries in six months. ... But by the grace of God, we have to place our trust in Jesus, and he pulled me through this."
He began his tenure by restructuring the sheriff's office, insisting personnel perform duties with professionalism and vowing to restore public confidence in the sheriff's office.
The 2008 murder of 13-month-old Amora Carson led to the overhaul of the sheriff's department, complete with new guidelines for detectives working homicides.
Pirtle rewrote the department's guidelines and procedures and increased the document by more than 150 pages. He also saw the completion of the new Rusk County Jail.
He came close to death several times and faced 11 homicides within a year, five of which were capital murder cases.
He said he will miss serving Rusk County residents, "doing my job and looking after them and doing the best job I could to keep them safe."
"I just miss the part about helping people. I've always been committed to helping people. I'll still be available (after retirement). I'm sure I will still get phone calls in the house about problems," Pirtle said.
He and his wife together have had 65 years in law enforcement.
Pirtle, a Henderson native, started with the Rusk County Sheriff's Office in 1975. He left in 1981 to work for the city of Kilgore and later returned to the sheriff's office. He also worked for the Henderson Police Department.
He said his goals when he became sheriff were to turn the department around and get all of the various agencies working together again. He said he's accomplished every goal he had.
"A lot of the programs I've started up, and they work and I'm proud of everything I've done for them ..." Pirtle said. "I really feel like this is one of the best-equipped departments in East Texas."
He said one of the biggest challenges was winning back residents' trust, where they would rely on officers to do their job.
When he first came in, he said there was a breakdown in communication between the sheriff's office and residents. However, he said he is thankful for where the office is today and has been able to resolve all but one capital murder case.
"I've seen just about it all, and it all sticks in my mind because I can be sitting around and things pop up. I think back about different cases. I just loved helping the people. I'm thankful for the people and the citizens' prayers and support and phone calls during my illness. That's why we got to place our trust in Jesus and move forward as Christians," Pirtle said.
He and his wife now plan to spend time with their children and grandchildren and "enjoy life." Pirtle said they built a retirement home in 2004 and will do some traveling and fishing. But he said he will still be available to help people.
"I'll be there for them if they need my help. I expect them to call me because that's all I've done for 38 years is try to help people. I've done a lot, and I'm proud of every moment of it. ... I've done the best I could do ... and I will miss everyone I've associated with, the agencies I've worked with and the agencies that's called on me to help," he said.
Rusk County and District Attorney Micheal Jimerson said he believes Pirtle is blessed because he's going out on his own terms, and he sees him as a great transitional figure who would never knowingly do anything wrong.
"I'm excited about his (well-earned) retirement. I know he wants to continue to serve, but he's the kind of person who takes it with him," he said.
Staff writers Kenneth Dean and Betty Waters contributed to this report.