Elected officials in Brazos County tend to serve a long time. Fortunately for county residents, most of the people we elect do a fine job. So, when four positions need to be filled, it is unusual indeed, and it makes for interesting election news, Again, we are fortunate to have outstanding candidates seeking the four open positions.
One of the vacancies was caused by the unexpected death of Precinct 2 Commissioner Sammy Catalena in May. His loss is incalculable. While he had been a county commissioner only since 2011, Catalena was known far and wide for his Sammy Catalena Rodeo and Livestock Co.
Former Bryan City Council member Chuck Konderla was appointed to replace Catalena until the Nov. 3 election. The residents of Precinct 2 — and the entire county — owe Konderla a big thank you for stepping up at a sad time.
Because the deadline for filing had passed, the executive committees of both parties interviewed applicants for the position, with Republicans picking Russ Ford and Democrats choosing Jane Sherman.
Less of a surprise, but disheartening nevertheless, was Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk’s decision to step down at the end of his sixth term. He had said when he ran four years ago that this would be his last term, but many county residents held out hope that he could be persuaded to run again. Longtime Kirk assistant Wayne Dicky, a Republican, will face off against jailer Patrick Logan, the Democratic nominee, and Libertarian Clyde Garland.
County Attorney Rod Anderson also is stepping down after 12 years, and two former assistant county attorneys are vying to replace him: Republican Earl Gray and Democrat Freddie Medina.
District Judge Travis Bryan III his taking off his black robe after 12 years on the bench. Republican John Brick is unopposed in his bid to replace Bryan.
The Eagle Editorial Board invited the candidates in contested local races to meet via Zoom, and most of them did. Those who didn’t meet with the Editorial Board were invited to submit campaign material and answer several questions.
Today, The Eagle makes the last of its recommendations in local races with a look at the three contested Brazos County races.
Our recommendations are but one source of information voters should consider when going to the polls. Other sources of information could include news stories, campaign ads and mailings, and discussions with family, friends and co-workers.
Here are The Eagle recommendations, in ballot order:
Brazos County Attorney
Earl Gray, Republican vs. Freddie Medina, Democrat — After years of the ebullient Jim Kuboviak as county attorney, Anderson provided a quieter, more low-key — but nevertheless hard-working — office.
Medina is a Brazos County native who graduated from Bryan High School and Texas A&M University, Class of 1995, and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston. He said he is running “to change the mandate and culture of the Brazos County Attorney’s Office in how it prosecutes misdemeanors.”
If elected, Medina said he would reduce the time low-level, nonviolent offenders spend in jail at taxpayer expense. He proposes allowing law enforcement officers issue citations for some nonviolent crimes rather than take the accused offender to jail. This would allow arresting officers to get back to work sooner without having to fill out the paperwork necessary when people are arrested and jailed.
Medina said, if elected, he would create a “Pretrial Diversion Program” that could include probation, counseling, community service and fines. If the defendant fails to live up to the terms of the diversion program, he or she could be prosecuted.
Gray, who served as an assistant district attorney in addition to his time in the County Attorney’s Office, said he is the only person in the race with criminal law experience as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. He wants to make a greater effort to prosecute family violence crimes.
Before going to law school, Gray spent 10 years working in the Walmart home office, setting up and managing many Walmart Supercenters throughout the country, experience he said would serve him and the people of Brazos County well.
Gray has taught legal courses at Blinn College for the past 21 years and started the college’s first legal assistant program. He has served on numerous boards within that Paralegal Program Division. He has been board certified in criminal law for 13 years.
This race could be a tough one for Brazos County voters. Both men have given committed service to the people of Brazos County. Either one no doubt would do a good job as county attorney. Earl Gray has an edge because of his management experience with Walmart.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Earl Gray for Brazos County attorney.
Brazos County Sheriff
Wayne Dicky, Republican vs. Patrick Logan, Democrat — Dicky is a Bryan native who has worked in the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office for 34 years as a detention officer, corporal, shift sergeant, facility lieutenant, patrol deputy and, for 23 years, jail administrator.
Dicky has undergone numerous training and certification programs throughout the country. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in criminal justice leadership and management from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and has been a Certified Jail Manager from the American Jail Association since 2001.
He earned certification as a Correctional Executive from the American Correctional Association in 2015. He graduated in the 23rd class of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas Leadership Command College and completed the 199th Session of the FBI National Academy.
Logan also is a Bryan native who worked with a variety of businesses before joining the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office as a detention officer in 2018. If elected, Logan wants to increase mental health services in Brazos County. He told KBTX, “People with mental illnesses don’t deserve to be in jail. When someone breaks a leg or when someone has a cold, we go to a doctor. We get them the help they need to heal. When you have a hidden illness, a mental illness, people don’t see it that way.”
He said, “A lot of people only see law enforcement on a negative side, so we want to be able to have those positive conversations. We do Coffee with a Cop, we do a lot of community events and through those, people can ask questions, they get to know who we are, they know that we’re people too.”
If elected, Dicky wants to create a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys and others to address challenges facing the County with its growth.
Logan only has brief experience in the sheriff’s office but already has developed some good ideas for making the department even better,
Dicky has a wealth of experience, both in class and on the job. His years of service with Kirk eases some of the loss of our longtime sheriff.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Wayne Dicky for Brazos County sheriff.
Brazos County Commissioner, Precinct 2 (unexpired term)
Russ Ford, Republican vs. Jane Sherman, Democrat — Sherman has lived here most of her life and has spent most of her adult years after college at the University of California at Berkeley working with nonprofits. Most recently, she has been handling marketing for Bryan-College Station Habitat for Humanity. She also spent two years as a missionary to Venezuela.
“I find myself drawn to the message of reconciliation,” Sherman said. “I tend to lean into a conflict.”
Health care and the justice system are areas of particular interest to Sherman. She asked, “Do we need another court?”
She praised community leaders for their initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said after that, “they dragged their feet.”
Ford moved from Waco to Brazos County in 1978 to attend Texas A&M.
He said he is concerned about the county’s rural roads and bridges, our court system and health department, saying now was not the time for commissioners’ actions to cut the health department budget, as happened last month.
Ford said he would look for efficiencies to save the county money as it comes out of the coronavirus pandemic. “We have to prioritze,” he said, adding he would look into incentivizing people who find ways to save the county money. He said the county should develop a contingency fund to help it get throught situations such as the coronavirus shutdown. He said there needs to be some good hiking trails in the county.
Ford said the county must work with all the area government entities to build and operate a regional wastewater treatment plant.
Sherman is eager, young and optimistic. Some of her concerns, though — such as an ordinance banning mobile homes in single-family neighborhood — are the purview of the Bryan City Council.
Ford has 38 years experience in large civil engineering projects.
He has a lot of well-thought-out ideas to make the county run better.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Russ Ford for Precinct 2 Brazos County commissioner.
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