Finding himself in the unusual position of not being on the ballot for the first time in 20 years, Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer says he is interested in helping voters decide who the next sheriff will be. He has agreed to moderate a Feb. 5 Sheriff’s Candidate Forum at Schreiner University’s Cailloux Activity Center planned for 6 p.m.
There are five candidates running for the post in the March 3 Republican Primary Election and a sixth candidate seeking the position as a Libertarian candidate.
Those candidates are KCSO Sgt. Eli Garcia, KCSO corrections officer Tommy Hill, former LAPD Sgt. Mitch Lambdin, former Texas DPS Trooper Larry Leitha and KCSO Capt. Carol Twiss. Hunt resident Warrent Funk is running as a Libertarian candidate.
All six candidates have confirmed their participation in the forum hosted by the Hill Country Community Journal, KerrvillePhoto.com and Kerrville United, JAM Broadcasting, and Schreiner University.
The forum will be live-streamed by Kerrville United by logging on to www.kerrvilleunited.com/live/. It will also broadcast live on radio stations 1230 AM and 107.7 FM by JAM Broadcasting.
“I took office as sheriff in 2000 and even though I had worked here (KCSO) 20 years prior, I didn’t know know what I was getting myself into. There was much more to the job than I even knew at that time,” Hierholzer said. “I would suspect it would be the same for these candidates. So I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to endorse any of the six candidates seeking this office. I think the public needs to look at each of them and decide for themselves who they should vote for.”
However, Hierholzer said, he belives he can bring some clarity and insight into the candidate forum setting.
For example, he said law enforcement is central to the office, but the sheriff must also run a jail to the required State of Texas Commission on Jail Standards specifications, must be able to balance and prepare a $12.4 million budget and manage 126 employees, to name a few.
“Often times at these forums, a question is asked and answered and no one really has a clue as to whether the answer is accurate or correct,” Hierholzer said. “I will know and I can help clarify. This election is not about me and this forum is not about me, but I do think that my experience could be helpful in a forum setting.”
Hierholzer said after serving the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office for 40 years, he believes it is time for him to hand over the reins to a new sheriff.
“I’m old-fashioned and I have my thoughts on how the department should be run, and it’s time for someone else to take the department to the next level. I don’t run the department like any of my predecessors ran it and I don’t expect anyone to run it the way I ran it,” Hierholzer said. “So, I am doing my very best to keep an open mind about each of the candidates and have worked very hard to make sure everyone understands that I will not be endorsing any candidate.”
As sheriff, Hierholzer said he is constantly asked to give his opinion about the race, but has vowed not to.
“I’m staying out of it,” Hierholzer said. “But when Tammy (Prout) asked me to moderate, I felt comfortable because of my long-standing relationship with the Community Journal and I knew she would keep it fair and unbiased, so that’s why I agreed to do it.”
Hierholzer said he has spent time with five of the six candidates, three of which are currently KCSO employees.
“I appreciate that they have each taken the time to try to learn more about the job of the Kerr County Sheriff,” Hierholzer said. “I will try to help each of them in any way I can to better understand the position. And I think it is very important that the public really look into it and research who they want to sit in this chair.”
Hierholzer also wanted to ensure the fairness of the forum by keeping the questions private, even from him, prior to the event. Citizens are also encouraged to submit questions to the following online links: www.kerrvilleunited.com/sheriff/ and via JAM Broadcasting Facebook page.
Questions are being solicited from the public, in advance, and will be screened and compiled by a committee of neutral volunteers. Questions may be edited or combined to fit the broadcast schedule.
In addition, questions will be accepted on the night of the forum and will also be screened and possibly combined.
Each candidate has been presented with a set of uniform rules regarding how the forum will be conducted.