Candidates for sheriff, constable, commissioner take part in forum

Sheffield backs out of forum, leaving floor to challenger Graves

The Erath County Republican Forum was Monday at City Hall banquet room at City Limits. || photo by BRAD KEITH


STEPHENVILLE (February 8, 2016) — Incumbents cited their experience and track records, challengers shared why they can do the job better and one candidate didn’t show up at all.

The Erath County Republican Forum featured candidates for Erath County Sheriff, Erath County Commissioner, Pct. 3 and Erath County Constable, Pct. 2, answering questions for an audience of about 200 at City Hall banquet room at City Limits Monday evening.

The Republican primary election is Tuesday, March 1, with early voting beginning next week.

Brent Graves, an Erath County resident challenging for Texas House District 59, had the floor to himself to end the forum, as two-term incumbent Dr. J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville elected not to attend.



Erath County Republican Chairman Danny Pelton, who moderated the bulk of the event along with Erath County Republican Women’s Chairman Heidi Carillo, told the audience Sheffield backed out by email about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Pelton said Sheffield and other candidates were informed in January of the date of the forum and had until February 1 to confirm their participation. Sheffield, says Pelton, did not reply until February 3, asking for an extension and to be included in the forum. Pelton says Sheffield was given the extension, but backed out after asking extensively about the format and questions for the debate.

“Folks, the man needs to step up and come speak to the people he represents,” said Pelton, who ran against Sheffield and lost in the last election.

Graves continued to move forward his platform as the ultimate conservative.

“First of all, we want Washington to stay out of Texas…Second of all, we want to close that (Mexico) border,” said Graves. “You see, we’ve got a northern border problem and a southern border problem, ladies and gentlemen, and we want to fix them both.”

Graves continued to speak out against abortion and says laws governing it should continue to be strengthened.

Graves predicts a “financial wreck” in Texas government during the 85th Legislature, and said he is against Medicaid, wants Texas “out of the healthcare business” and wants state government to stop unfunded mandates.

In forums for other races, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant relied on his 19 years in the position to answer most questions. He cited neighborhood watch programs he helped to establish throughout the county and a working relationship with the Secret Service to help with computer crime. Bryant says the biggest obstacle facing the department is adequate pay for deputies and other staff.

“Pay for deputies, jail staff and dispatchers was at a point about five years ago where we were losing good people to police departments or the DPS because they could get a pay raise,” Bryant said. “We’re getting back to that point now.”

Clell Murray, a veteran Tarleton Police officer and instructor, and Leslie “Tish” Lecroy, a veteran of the Erath County Sheriff’s Office and Dublin Police Department, are running against Bryant.

Murray relied on his strengths as an instructor during the forum, stressing the need for increased training throughout the sheriff’s department and improved equipment and technology. Concerning budget and manpower issues, Murray said he would insert himself into various roles.

“I would want to interact myself with investigations, patrol, the jail staff,” Murray said. “I want to learn each role and how we can do things more efficiently.”


Murray also cited his experience working with a special cyber crimes unit in Austin concerning computer crime.

Lecroy says if she is sheriff the department would become more involved in the community.

“We would get more involved in the community through social media and meetings like this one so we  know how we can serve the people and they can get to know us,” said LeCroy, who stressed the continued need for neighborhood watch groups such as those Bryant took credit for helping to set up.

LeCroy was quick to point to training when it comes to the ever-increasing problem of computer crime.

“The obvious thing is training. Training is essential,” she said. “That is something that has to be addressed.”

Commissioner Joe Brown followed Bryant’s lead and continually cited his experience in the forum with challenger Dale Dove. Brown is completing eight years as the commissioner in Pct. 3, where he says he has managed six people directly while also bearing in mind the 182 total employees of the county.

“I’ve really enjoyed becoming obsessed with my job,” joked Brown. “I want to keep doing what I am and try to do a little more.”

Dove announced simple plans, if elected.

“I want to fix the roads,” Dove said.

Like the sheriff’s race, there are three vying to be the next constable of Pct. 1 following the retirement of Larry Ciccarelli. Veteran Stephenville Police officer and investigator Jason Schipper, Tarleton policeman Scott Daily and Hood County Investigator Jimmy Towe are on the ballot, and each cited long histories in law enforcement.

Shipper, a Tarleton graduate, has worked with the Stephenville force since 1994. Daily has been at Tarleton four years and has experience dating back to growing up the son of a Colorado sheriff. Towe cited a career with the Texas Department of Public Safety and as a county investigatory, including stints in Parker and, currently, Hood counties.

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