Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant runs for re-election
By Kelsey Poynor—
Jan. 1, 1997, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant first took office. Bryant is running in this year’s race for sheriff with hopes of preserving his 19-year-long position.
“My family moved here [Stephenville] whenever I was 10-years-old. I started the fourth grade here and went from fourth all the way through high school here and a little bit of Tarleton before I had to quit going to college and take over the family pig farm,” said Bryant.
Bryant became a welder before finding his true love, law enforcement. “I was a welder by trade. I loved welding. But I got tired of working for companies that would have lay-offs, and it just wasn’t real secure,” Bryant said. “A friend of mine was a police officer with Stephenville PD, and he invited me to do a ride-along one night, and I fell in love. It was the most incredible night of my life”.
“What I love about law enforcement is that you never know what’s gonna’ come across the radio. It could be anything from a bank robbery to Mrs. Smith’s cat is stuck in a tree. It’s real exciting, and you know, in order to become a good police officer, you need to be a bit nosey,” said Bryant.
In 1987, Bryant graduated from Tarleton State University’s Police Academy. “Once I got out of there, I tested and got on to Stephenville Police Department,” said Bryant.
“While I was working for the police department, I noticed there were some things that I would do differently if I was sheriff. I got to visiting with people and talking to them, and they had some of the same ideas that I did,” said Bryant.
The issues that stood out to Bryant the most was how the deputies handled their duties and what the inmates did in their free time while in jail. “For example, 19 to 20 years ago, the deputies would go home at one in the morning and take calls from home. How you would like to be the lady that has someone breaking into your home, fixing to rob and rape her, and the deputy had to be called, woken up, and have to get dressed and then come to your aid? That was one thing I wanted to see change,” said Bryant.
“Another thing was I would arrest people and bring them to the jail, and I noticed these huge men, and they would be lifting weights. I had to put a stop to that. Why in the world would I want someone to get bigger and stronger where they could get out of jail and do more damage? I thought, ‘I’m gonna’ do away with that and start an inmate work program,’” Bryant said. “We’ve now adopted a stretch of highway where they can go pick up trash. They’ve painted churches and schools, and they keep our cemeteries clean. It saves taxpayers a load of money. Plus, I give the inmates “good-time,” so they can get out of here a little quicker, get back to their families and start working again, where they can be somewhat productive. That’s some of the reasons I decided to run for sheriff.”
While serving his time as Erath County Sheriff, Bryant has also recognized a change in how many calls the department receives. Bryant explained that he has set up neighborhood watch programs throughout Stephenville and that these have also increased the amount of callers.
“I’ve gone throughout the county and started neighborhood watch programs. I’ve taught people that (if) anything makes you a little bit suspicious to call us. Since then, we have recovered a lot of stolen property and made arrests,” said Bryant.
Bryant has also noted a change in how many arrests and inmates are taken in daily since he initially took the position.
“When I first became sheriff, we would have about 30 people a day. Now, it’s about 100 a day,” said Bryant. Bryant said there are not many improvements that need to be made if he were to win the position as sheriff again this election.
“I would love to have more deputies, but that’s out of my control. It would come from the commissioners. They control my budget. When I first started, I had six deputies, and mathematically to work 24/7, none of those deputies could get sick or take vacation,” Bryant said. “I started a deputy reserve program. I brought-in reserve deputies who could fill in those spots, and they were volunteers. That would be something I would like to do, but we’re getting by pretty well.”
While serving time as sheriff, Bryant has sponsored House Bill 946, which protects children in homes where methamphetamine (meth) is found. He expressed how he believes this is one of the most important issues taking place in the world right now. Bryant has also created a “Refrigerator Card” for senior citizens, which lists important medical information for Emergency Medical Services if called to a home.
The primary election on March 1 will determine if Bryant will keep his position in the election or hand it over to one of his opponents, Officer Clell Murray of Tarleton State or Leslie ‘Tish’ Lecroy, former Erath County deputy of 15 years.