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By Elizabeth Tanner
Sheriff candidates, Michael Isbell, Phil Mathews and incumbent Sheriff Terry Morgan, addressed the prevalent drug problem in Garza County at the Oct. 6 candidates’ forum hosted by the Post Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a tough nut to crack,” current Garza County Sheriff Morgan said. “We have to be vigilant about it. We currently have excellent relations with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Criminal Investigations Department. We divide our time and do the best we can.”
Emergency Management Coordinator and write-in sheriff candidate Isbell, who has 25 years of experience in law enforcement, said he believes relations between the DPS and sheriff’s office can and should be strengthened.
“Problem is an understatement,” Isbell said. “We need to strengthen our relations with DPS. Doing that would help us out a lot.”
Write-in candidate Mathews, with experience as a jailer, criminal investigator and highway patrolman, believes he is capable of fortifying the connection through his agency relations.
“Residents call the sheriff’s office to report these problems and get no results,” Mathews said. “You will get results from me. I will work diligently to get out more warrants.”
The candidates also addressed the lack of patrol and sheriff office presence in the community, especially in rural areas.
“I want to make sure our patrol officers are seen in rural areas as well as in the city,” Mathews said. “I’ll also work to be more transparent than the current sheriff. I want to have personal interaction with the community so more people will know who their sheriff is.”
Isbell said that certain areas of the county, such as Southland, often go overlooked.
“Higher visibility is a must,” Isbell said. “Southland gets neglected. We need to get back to small-town policing and fix this.”
Morgan stated that with only six patrol officers, presence and visibility throughout the more rural areas of the county can be hard to maintain to which Matthews suggested the use of reserve police officers, volunteers with former policing backgrounds that perform law enforcement duties within the community.
With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation, the candidates also addressed the fair treatment of all citizens by law enforcement.
“It all goes back to training,” Isbell said. “Everybody deserves to be treated the same.”
Matthews agreed, stating the sheriff’s role is to enforce fairness.
“Training is continuous,” Matthews said, “You have to lead your officers and keep training them to treat everyone with appreciation and courtesy. The sheriff’s role is to make sure all people are being treated fairly with no favoritism.”
Morgan stated that with new body cameras and a fully recorded interview room, it can be proven that deputies under his authority currently abide by the equal treatment of all citizens.
“We have the camera footage to show my officers are fair,” Morgan said.
Seeking his third term, Morgan ensures that with his re-election comes experience, honesty, integrity and professionalism.
“It’s a challenge to be a Garza County Deputy,” Morgan said, “but I love coming to Post and doing what I do every single day. If re-elected, I can promise results, and I’ll continue to lead by example. I’ve always had a passion to protect children and senior citizens, and I’m always searching for ways to save taxpayers money. I’m tough on crime and even tougher on criminals.”
Mathews, promising to update patrol systems, work hand-in-hand with the school systems to teach children the importance of law enforcement and improve agency relationships, wants to give back to his hometown through becoming sheriff.
“I’m from Garza County,” Mathews said. “I love this town and everyone in it. I want this community to be one you’re proud of and feel safe to raise your family in. I’m ready to meet the challenge and become the sheriff of Garza County.”
Hoping to continue serving Garza County, Isbell says he is excited to serve the community in a different capacity.
“I’ve served this community for 15 years,” Isbell said, “and I want to be able to continue to serve this community – it’s one of the greatest things a man can do. Despite what you’ve heard, there is more than one person qualified for the job.”
Also attending the forum was constable candidates David Graves, Precinct 1, and Freddy Guerrero, Precinct 2.
Graves, who has more than 16 years of correctional experience, four of which were served at the constables’ office, said his main goal for the upcoming term is to maintain an open-door policy while being present in the community.
“My primary goal is to work for and with the people of the county,” Graves said.
Guerrero, who has worked in the prison, detention center and sheriff’s office, said his main focus is continuing to implement mental health services in the jailing facilities, a goal inspired by his autistic son.
“I want to work on mental health services in the jail,” Guerrero said. “A lot of individuals that come to the jail have mental health issues.”
While saying he hopes to see more patrolling within the community, he commends the sheriff’s office for what work it is currently capable of with limited staff.
“They’ve done a great job in Garza County,” Guerrero said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
U.S. Congress Congressional District 19 candidate Tom Watson also was in attendance, relaying the importance of togetherness in government.
“We have gotten so involved in fighting that we’ve forgotten how to work together,” Watson said. “We need to try to get beyond this division of government – government is for all of us. We need to learn to compromise – that’s something that’s lacking today. I will work to bring things together. Being a lawyer, that’s what I do.”
Diann Windham represented U.S. Congress Congressional District 19 challenger Jodey Arrington, who was unable to attend due to prior obligations. Windham who spoke of Arrington’s promise to retain West Texas conservative values in Washington, D.C.
County Judge Lee Norman encouraged residents to exercise their right to vote at the ballot box.
“I’m always excited when we have such a great group of people wanting to serve our community,” Norman said. “Please go vote – that’s when your voice is heard.”
For more information regarding elections, contact the County Clerk’s Office at 806-495-4430 or [email protected] or visit http://www.garzacounty.net/2020_november_election.html