Today marks the first day of early voting across Texas for those participating in the primary elections. Here in Kerr County, we’ve got five Republicans battling to earn the party’s nomination to replace retiring Rusty Hierholzer as sheriff.
We are not making an endorsement in this stage of the race, but we think it’s important to highlight some of the strengths that each candidate brings in their quest for the position. There are actually six candidates; Libertarian candidate Warren Funk will earn a pass into the November general election to face the winner of the primary and, most likely, a GOP runoff in May.
We will say it would be nice if this was a non-partisan position in order to bypass potentially three elections, and we’re not really certain why a law enforcement position needs to identify with a political party, but this is our current reality.
We do not expect any one candidate to win a majority in order to prevent a runoff in the sheriff’s race.
For those who expected us to make an endorsement, we find this round incredibly difficult, because we find so many positives with all five GOP candidates. Here’s what we think are the strengths of each candidate in alphabetical order:
ELI GARCIA: With more than 20 years of experience, Garcia has done a lot in his time as a dispatcher with the Kerrville Police Department and then with the sheriff’s department. He’s a training sergeant and a member of the special operation’s unit. He’s worked as a negotiator and has training in mental health. He wants to work on improving the department through improved fitness — both physically and mentally — and additional training. Garcia grew up in Kerrville, graduating from Tivy High School and knows the community well.
TOMMY EDDIE HILL: A veteran law enforcement officer, Hill has spent the latter portions of his career working in jails and prisons. While he could be retired, Hill is still working as a corrections deputy in Kerr County. He’s served in a variety of leadership roles and started his career in the county when he was just 19. Hill’s experience in the prisons is one of the biggest reasons he’s in this race, and he stresses the importance of managing the county’s jail. He’s familiar with budgets and prisoner welfare, which is an essential function for the sheriff.
MITCH LAMBDIN: While he’s a native of California, Lambdin’s experience in the Los Angeles Police Department — the nation’s third largest police force — is certainly an important component to consider. He retired as a sergeant in that department and handled numerous important jobs in the expansive department, where a single station handled areas far larger than Kerr County. He’s worked major special events, worked with bomb detection and is licensed to serve here in Texas. He believes the depth and breadth of his big department training will help him be an effective administrator in Kerr County.
LARRY LEITHA: A Kerr County native, Leitha brings a wide range of law enforcement experience from working as a police officer, state trooper and narcotics investigator in the state’s Department of Public Safety. Leitha grew up in Center Point, graduating from high school there, and then later serving on the school board for the Center Point Independent School District, which has given him insights into being an elected official. While he’s called Kerr County home, he’s been outside of the region enough to gain a broad spectrum of law enforcement experience that is required of this job.
CAROL TWISS: She’s one of the most veteran members of the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office. A one-time jail administrator, Twiss stresses the importance of running the jail in a way that protects the county from lawsuits. As a captain, she understands the administrative component of running the department, but also stresses the importance of training for deputies on patrol and in the department. While almost the entirety of her career has been with the sheriff’s department, she has continued to work on her own personal training to stay current with the latest in law enforcement techniques and technology.
In the end, through interviews with the reporting staff of The Kerrville Daily Times, it’s important to note that all five candidates are highly qualified. The voters will have a tough task ahead of them. We know that we’re a better place because we have six people who put themselves forward to offer to serve our community, and we thank all of them for doing so. Now, the task is up to the voters.