WAXAHACHIE — With the resignation of Johnny Brown from the sheriff’s office, the Ellis County Commissioner Court will start the process of looking for his successor at its Tuesday meeting. Brown officially resigned on Wednesday morning and then entered a guilty plea in the Ellis County Court at No. 2 to one count of misdemeanor assault.
The search for a new sheriff is listed under the administrative as item 3.10 on Tuesday agenda. “Acknowledgment of the sheriff’s resignation and discussion of the appointment process," the agenda item reads.
“The commissioners’ court will have to address how the process will occur. That will actually be more likely than not an agenda item on Tuesday’s agenda to discuss the vacancy and the method we would undertake to fill the vacancy and appoint a successor,” Ellis County Judge Carol Bush said. “The Texas Local Government Code Chapter 87. 041 authorize the court to appoint the successor. That is the legal basis for us moving forward.
“In the absence of the sheriff, the chief deputy, in his chief deputy capacity, will perform the necessary duties of daily operations. The successor must be qualified to run for office. Once he or she makes bond, takes the oath and files the necessary documents, the successor will become the sheriff and serve until the next general election.”
Texas Local Government Code Chapter 87.041, which authorizes the commissioners to appoint a successor, also states, “The commissioners' court shall fill a vacancy by a majority vote of the members of the court who are present and voting. The person appointed by the commissioners’ court to fill the vacancy shall hold office until the next general election."
The next general election is November of 2018.
“The successor would become the appointed sheriff and would be in that capacity until the next general election. Because the vacancy, in this case, is occurring so soon into the new term, Sheriff Brown took that in January, there are more than two years to serve. It is a four-year term. The law is very specific that you have to follow a certain procedure relative to the elections,” Bush said. “According to Texas Government Code Section 601.005, the primary election ballot will list sheriff and in parentheses will state expired term. The winner of the general election will take office in November 2018 after receiving his or her certificate of election, presenting bond and taking the oath of office.”
Bush said there would be a primary and general election for the sheriff’s full term in 2020. She added, “this ensures that no appointee holds office for more than four years before the voters have the opportunity to express their will.”
According to the Texas Government Code Chapter 85.001, the qualifications for sheriff include the person be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, resident of the state 12 months, resident of the county six months, registered to vote in the county, high school diploma or equivalent – baseline requirement and eligible to be licensed under section 1701.309 and 1709.312 of the Occupations Code.
Bush said Deputy Chief Brad Norman is managing the operations at the Sheriff’s Office during this time.
According to the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office website, Norman has been a Peace Officer since 1998 and was appointed to the position of Chief Deputy by Brown in May 2015. Prior to that, Norman was the Operations Captain as well as the Lieutenant of the Narcotics Task Force under former Sheriff Ray Stewart.
The sheriff’s office website also states that Norman holds a Master Peace Officer Proficiency Certificate from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. He is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas Leadership Command College No. 72 at Sam Houston State University as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Drug Unit Commanders Academy No. 61 in Quantico, VA.
Bush said by the nature of his position at the sheriff’s office Norman is stepping up to manage the sheriff’s office like he would if the sheriff was on vacation. She added that Norman is highly qualified and she is confident in his abilities.
“I think that it is important to reassure the public that operations continue as normal and that there is not a deficit of law enforcement on the streets. Patrol remains the same. We will just use this opportunity to bring in someone that will represent the county well,” Bush said. “It looks like based on the interest that I have seen so far we will have multiple candidates and we will try to make that selection as soon as reasonably possible. We want to make sure we are finding the best-qualified candidates.”
Commissioners Court takes place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday in the historic Ellis County Courthouse located at 101 W. Main St. in downtown Waxahachie. The meeting takes place in the courtroom on the second floor.
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