Jones picked as new sheriff
Trinity Standard , April 2007
GROVETON – Trinity Police Sgt. Steven Jones, 32, was sworn in as the new Trinity County sheriff Friday afternoon shortly after being picked by the county commissioners.
Jones appointment came on a 3-2 vote by commissioners following a 90-minute closed session in which they reviewed the merits of the five local candidates.
The new sheriff is expected to hold office through the November 2008 general election. He replaces former Sheriff Jimmy Smith, who resigned effective March 31.
When it came time to vote on the appointment, Pct. 2 Commissioner Jannette Hortman, Pct. 3 Commissioner Cecil Webb and Trinity County Judge Mark Evans voted in favor of Jones.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham and Pct. 4 Commissioner Travis Forrest voted “no.”
Both Worsham and Forrest had previously “recommended” the appointment of retired Texas Highway patrol Trooper Steven “Doug” Page of Woodlake.
After the vote, Worsham and Forrest indicated they were not opposed to Jones, but were committed to support Page for the position.
“I just want to tell Mr. Jones that although I voted ‘no,’ I have nothing against him. I hope to work with the new sheriff for the betterment of the county,” Worsham said.
“I understand,” Jones replied. “Mr. Page is a good man and I think he could do a good job.”
Forrest also took the opportunity to voice his appreciation to Chief Deputy Jim Gratz for his service as acting sheriff following resignation of Smith.
Gratz, who was one of the five candidates considered for the appointment, then announced his immediate resignation and handed a letter to that effect to Jones during the closing moments of Friday’s meeting.
Other candidates who submitted resumés in hopes of winning the appointment included Deputy Sheriff Orval “Tom” Hester and Deputy Sheriff Wayne Huffman, both of Trinity.
A sixth resumé was submitted by Gary Lyn Clendennen but because his residence was in Houston County, state law precluded his appointment.
Following the meeting, Jones said that Gratz did a “good job under difficult conditions” and that his resignation was being accepted “with regret.”
Two other deputies, Ted Smith and Sgt. John Spillman, also resigned from the sheriff’s department within hours of Jones’ appointment.
Jones said Monday that despite the resignations, the sheriff’s department is reorganizing and functioning.
“I know there are rumors floating around the ‘all the deputies’ quit but that is not the case. Right now we have vacancies for three deputies and one dispatcher,” he said.
Applications were being taken this week for the four positions.
Jones added he also is looking for people who want to become active reserve officers.
Although they are short staffed, Jones said that will be only a temporary situation and the sheriff’s department is still patrolling and answering calls for assistance.
The new sheriff has promoted Sgt. Charlie Pierce to the rank of chief deputy and promoted Hester to the rank of sergeant. One other sergeant’s position remains vacant at this time.
Following last week’s meeting, Jones promised to work hard to serve the people of Trinity County.
“There were a lot of good, reputable people who applied for the appointment,” Jones said. “I appreciate the trust shown by the commissioners in selecting me for this job.”
Jones is a native of Lufkin and moved to Groveton at the age of 14 with his parents, the Rev. Lewis and Darleen Jones. His father is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Groveton.
He is a 1993 graduate of Groveton High School and a 2001 graduate of the Angelina College Police Academy.
After completing training, he worked for two years as a deputy jailer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in Livingston.
He joined the Trinity Police Department as a patrol officer on Nov. 14, 2003 and was promoted to the rank of sergeant last year.
After winning the appointment on Friday, Jones was married on Saturday to Melissa Helen Thompson of Trinity. The ceremony took place in his father’s church in Groveton.
The vacancy in the sheriff’s position occurred on March 31 when Smith resigned.
At the time, the county was facing the loss of its law enforcement liability insurance and Smith was facing a civil lawsuit to remove him from office. Both actions came because Smith had failed to obtain the mandatory peace officer’s certification.
Texas law required that he be certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards-Education (TCLEOSE) within two years after taking office. That deadline passed on Jan. 1 and in mid-January a civil lawsuit calling for his removal was filed.
Jury selection in that trial was to have begun on April 23.
Smith resignation came two days after he had failed the TCLEOSE exam for the third time.
His resignation on March 31 ended the civil case against him and the county’s insurance carrier, the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) agreed not to cancel the insurance protection.