|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - June 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Jones steps down as sheriff; Lee appointed
Trinity Standard - June 2008
TRINITY – After accepting the job as the Trinity Police Chief on June 12, Trinity County Sheriff Steven Jones resign his county post on June.19
Jones, who was appointed as sheriff in April 2007, was defeated in the March Democratic Party sheriff’s primary by Brent Lee.
Lee is currently unopposed for the sheriff’s job in the November general election.
Trinity County commissioners received Jones’ resignation during a special meeting appointed Lee as the new sheriff.
Because Jones was appointed to the post, Lee would have automatically taken over as sheriff in November as soon as the results of the general election were finalized.
When he accepted the police chief’s job, Jones said he wanted to give the county at least two week’s notice to give officials time to make the transition to a new sheriff.
“I definitely don’t want to create any problems for the county but I would like to begin my new job as quickly as possible,” he said.
After discussing the situation with county officials, it was agreed to let Jones step down effective June 19.
“I met with Mr. Lee for about two hours (on June 12) to discuss the situation and I came away with a very good feeling,” Jones told the Trinity City Council.
“I think there will be a smooth transition to the new administration and I feel confident that I will be able to work with the new sheriff to provide effective law enforcement to the people of Trinity and Trinity County,” he added.
When Jones officially takes over as the new Trinity police chief this week, it will mark the first time in a long time that the department has been fully staffed.
Former Police Chief Lynn Gentry resigned on April 10 and Chris Molandes has been serving as the acting chief since that time. Molandes also stepped down last week to accept a post in San Jacinto County.
During the city council meeting, five new officers – all former county deputy sheriffs – were introduced.
The former deputies who are now full-time Trinity officers included Millard Stains, Thomas Park, John Raiford, Jay Robinson and Travis Bryan. Stains had transferred to the TPD last month and the others had been working part-time for the city during their days off from their deputy sheriff’s duties.
Park, who had previously served as a full-time TPD patrol officer prior to joining the sheriff’s department, has been named as the TPD sergeant.
Jones also noted that Chief Deputy Charlie Pierce and Deputy Sgt. Tom Hester also were leaving the sheriff’s department to pursue other opportunities.
“That means that the sheriff’s department is down to only three deputies but Mr. Lee said he will be able to bring more officers on board as soon as he is sworn into office,” Jones said.
The sheriff said he had been asked if he planned to resign earlier, but held off leaving in order to complete a number of projects he had underway.
“When I leave, I want to make sure that the sheriff’s department was in as good a shape as possible. I definitely didn’t want to leave a mess for Mr. Lee to have to clean up,” he said.
“Right now I feel that the department is at the point where I can step aside,” he added.
Jones noted that one of the major problems that faced him when he was appointed following the resignation of former Sheriff Jimmy Smith was the large amount of overtime hours accumulated by the deputies.
Those overtime hours represented unbudgeted payroll that had to be paid in cash should the deputy leave the department.
“When I took over, we had deputies that were owed as much as $20,000 in overtime. Now, I think the average is down to $2,000 and many of the deputies who transferred over to the police department had zero hours of overtime on the books,” he said.
“I want to thank the other county officials for all the help and support they gave me during my time as sheriff,” Jones said. “When ever I had a question or a concern about anything, they gave me prompt, immediate and courteous attention and I want them to know how much I appreciate that.”
Jones also voiced his appreciation to the commissioners court for appointing him to the post last year.
“At the age of 33, it was an honor to be named to one of the highest law enforcement positions in the state. I worked to fulfill that trust by always trying to do my best,” he added.
A native of Lufkin, Jones moved to Trinity County at the age of 14 and is a 1993 graduate of Groveton High School. Prior to being named as sheriff last year, he served with the Trinity Police Department for almost 3½ years and held the rank of sergeant when he left.
During last week’s city council meeting, Jones received the unanimous support from the mayor and council members present.
Councilman Clegg DeWalt, who was elected in May, said he had initially planned to abstain from voting because he was so new to the job.
“However, this decision is just too important and when someone abstains it is too often misconstrued as a ‘no’ vote,” DeWalt said.
“We need a police chief and we need a fully staffed police department and the city council needs to support and hold accountable its police department,” he said.
Councilman Neal Smith said he feels Jones was the most qualified person for the post of police chief.
“He did an excellent job when he was with the department before,” Smith said.
Smith added that he has been unhappy with the police department for quite a while and believes that Jones can get it back into shape.
In welcoming Jones to his new job, Mayor Lyle Stubbs also offered praise.
“I think Steve will do us a wonderful job. He is an asset to our city and our county and I like what he did when he was here before,” Stubbs said.
In other police related action, the council approved a request from Jones to order new graphics to be placed on the TPD patrol cars.
“We’re trying to give the department a new image with the public and I feel that giving our cars a new look will help,” Jones told the council.
He noted the new design is “clean looking” and “very presentable.”
The council approved the purchase of the new graphic decals for the four patrol cars at a cost of $1,350.