This is a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is that Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk is retiring after 40 years with the department, the last 24 of them as sheriff.
Kirk inherited a department in disarray and quickly made necessary changes to create a professional department, one that serves the people of Brazos County well. He continued to fine tune the Sheriff's Office operations and no doubt will do so throughout the rest of this year.
To say Sheriff Kirk will be missed is an understatement. We will miss him but we wish him well.
The good news is that two outstanding candidates are seeking to replace Kirk in the March 3 Republican Primary. Wayne Dicky, 54, has been with the Sheriff's Office since 1986, the past 23 years as jail administrator. Jason James, 44, has been with the Bryan Police Department for more than 20 years, serving in a wide variety of positions.
The two men are polar opposites in personality, but both of them would be a good successor to Sheriff Kirk.
A Bryan native, Dicky has served in just about every capacity in the jail division and spent three years in the larger patrol division. In 1991, Dicky led the transition to the county's new minimum security jail and went on to become the first sergeant to supervise operations there. Nine years later, Dicky helped direct the maximum security expansion of the facility. He supervised the planning, design and construction of the $55 million jail expansion.
As jail administrator, Dicky is in charge of some 180 employees, with an annual budget of $15 million.
He has been involved in a number of state and national law enforcement organizations, serving as president of both the Texas Jail Association and the American Jail Association. He received the Jerry Baggs Leadership Award from the Texas Jail Association. Sheriff Kirk has endorsed Dicky.
Both candidates have nothing but praise for Sheriff Kirk. Dicky said, if elected, he wants to improve communication within the department, aligning more closely the jail and patrol sides of the department.
Saying he is concerned about growth, Dicky would like to create a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to deal with the rapid growth of Brazos County. Such a council would include representatives of all the law enforcement agencies in the county, as well as prosecutors, judges and others involved in the criminal justice system. According to Dicky's website, the purpose of the council would be "to develop fair, effective, and efficient strategies to address crime and improve our quality of life in Brazos County."
Dicky said as sheriff he would continue to seek ways to run the department more efficiently and more innovatively and to continue to train people to assume leadership positions with the department.
James grew up in Bridge City and earned a criminal justice degree from Lamar University before joining the Bryan Police Department in 1998. As a patrol officer, he helped provide security at the Bonfire collapse site, where he saw all law enforcement agencies work together in a crisis. In 2000, James became a canine officer and had the chance to address numerous groups and organizations. From 2003 to 2006, he was a resource officer at Bryan High School and later was promoted to detective assigned to crimes against persons, specializing in juvenile matters. In 2008, he was appointed the department's public information officer, starting the department's first Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep the public informed. James was appointed a patrol sergeant and now is part of the neighborhood team. He started the popular "coffee with a cop" program.
James became involved with Special Olympics as a volunteer security office in 2000 and has continued to work with that organization. He has been involved with the Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley for four years and now serves as president, has served as president of the board for the First Responders Association and is a state board member of the Special Olympics Torch Run. He is active in the Bryan Evening Lions Club.
In 2014, James received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service. He has received numerous other awards, including a Police Commendation and two Community Service Awards from the Bryan Police Department, a Law Enforcement Commendation by the Sons of the American Revolution and two Outstanding Service for Fundraising awards for his work on the local Tip-A-Cop fund raiser.
If elected, James wants to continue working with technological advances to keep the department on the cutting edge and wants to strengthen ties with other law enforcement agencies.
What makes this race so frustrating for the Editorial Board and for many in the community is that both candidates are extremely well-qualified and bring a wealth of experience to the position. Dicky has experience in the department, but James has the community experience necessary to be a good sheriff. No matter which candidate they support, voters won't go wrong.
Because of this, The Eagle makes no recommendation in the race for sheriff in the Republican Primary. It may be frustrating, but it is a good problem to have.