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Three candidates are facing off in the March 4 GOP Primary for the office of Constable for Precinct 5.
Early voting is under way and will continue weekdays through Feb. 28 at the Lamar County Annex in the 200 block of Lamar Avenue .
All three made their cases at a political forum on Feb. 6 sponsored by the Lamar County Republican Party.
In the order in which their names are on the ballot, the incumbent, Jimmy Hodges and his opponents, Gerry Don Hines and Jimmy Don Clark, made an opening statement, then had two minutes to respond to two questions that were given them ahead of time.
Following are their responses:
GERRY DON HINES, 37, 3795 Village Bend Road, Paris – My name is Gerry Don Hines. I was born and raised in Lamar County. My father is retired from a local company, and my mother is a 43-year employee of Campbell Soup. My brother is a sheriff’s deputy of Lamar County.
I went to Paris schools, graduated from Paris High, went to PJC. After that, I went to the Coast Guard, traveled around, law enforcement, search and rescue, I was the liaison between the citizens, the fishermen, and the Coast Guard.
My time expired in the Coast Guard, I came back to Texas, I hired on with a fire department. I had two years there — firefighter and EMS, and I came back to Lamar County. I was hired on by the Paris Police Department for five years.
I do understand the Texas law, the judicial system. With the combined time of the fire department, the police department and the Coast Guard, I’ve got 14 years of public service.
I’d appreciate your support for constable of Precinct 5.
JIMMY HODGES, 41, 1114 S. Main St., Paris – I am Jimmy Hodges, current constable of Precinct 5. I was appointed in November of 2012. I started my law enforcement career in the Lamar County sheriff’s office as a jailer, worked there about four and a half years.
After that, I worked for the City of Frisco as a water and sewer crew leader. Moved back to Paris and went to work for the Reno Police Department for a year. Worked out there as a patrolman and ended up going back to the sheriff’s office as a transport officer for four and a half years. After doing transport, I went on to patrol and spent four and a half or five years as a patrol officer.
I am married and I have three kids. They all go to North Lamar — 14, 11 and 10 — and my wife, Lori Leigh, is a nurse.
Since taking this position as constable, I have learned a very valuable skill, I call it, in the civil process. It is very detailed, and complicated at times, and I’m still learning the process. I want to continue to learn and continue to work in this position.
I would appreciate your vote and support in March.
JIMMY DON CLARK, 58, 620 33rd St. NE, Paris — Thank you. Some people know me as J.D. I’m currently an investigator with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Department, under Sheriff Cass. I’m also over the property and evidence room.
I have over 34 years of law enforcement experience. I’ve been a patrolman, I’ve been a field training officer, criminal investigator, I’m a narcotics investigator.
I have a beautiful wife, Susan. We’ve been married for 33 years. We have three children, five grand children.
Except for six years with the Lewisville Police Department, my career has been here in Lamar County. I have more than 1,400 hours of training. I have a master’s certificate from the Commission of Law Enforcement.
Lamar County is my home, has been, and will continue to be. Thank you.
QUESTION 1: In the light of the fact that the duties of a constable duplicates many of the law enforcement functions provided by the sheriff’s department, do you believe the constable position is a necessary position in the 21st century?
JIMMY DON CLARK — Yes, I still feel the position is still one that is needed. The constable for precinct 5 serves as bailiff for JP’s when they conduct court, they serve civil papers, whether it’s truancy or eviction notices or any other papers.
They also help transport prisoners whenever county court is going on, and they have to be transported to the jail if that’s where they’re sentenced.
The two officers in that constable staff are two more officers available to help whether it’s the city of Paris, the City of Reno, or the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office.
Yes, I believe it’s still valuable.
JIMMY HODGES — Yes, I believe it’s necessary. There are some duties that the constable performs. The office was established in Texas in 1823, and today there are 708 constables in Texas.
As far as the sheriff’s office and constables working together, the primary responsiblility of the sheriff’s department is operation of the jail, and upholding law and order. The constable is responsible for providing bailiff services to both JP courts, serving small claims citations, executing warrants issued by the justice of the peace, traffic warrants and all evictions.
The constable’s office also maintains truancies, assists with bailiffs of county court, district court, and also assists with getting inmates to and from the court, and makes sure everybody is safe.
The constable’s office patrols and enforces traffic laws, and we’re known as the people’s police. When people call upon their constable of precinct 5, they get the same person every time, which develops a bond and friendship with the constable, unlike the sheriff’s department where they get a different officer every time.
As the constable of precinct 5, i want to take a little more vital role and take over all the civil process to free up the sheriff’s department and deputies for more pressing criminal matters.
I think the constable plays a huge role in day-to-day operations of the judicial system in Lamar County, serving all citations executed.
GERRY DON HINES — The answer is an absolute yes.
Like everything else, the needs on patrolmen, the needs on deputies, are more and more.
If you can take that burden from a deputy or a patrolman, it improves the situation from both sides.
They have a lot to do on the criminal side of it, so yeah, with the civil process side of it, i strongly believe that the job should stay here. It’s a vital part of the judicial system of this county.
QUESTION 2 — IF elected, what specific actions will you take to work with other law enforcement agencies in the county?
GERRY DON HINES – I think there needs to be a liaison between the county and the city when it comes to civil process.
Tell the city and county, here’s my number and contact us when it comes to any kind of civil matters, to free up these deputies, free up these patrolmen, because they have their hands full, doing the job they have,. That’s the main part of it.
A couple of my friends heard I was running for constable and they said, “Hey, that’s great. What do you do?” And when I tell the people i work with, in law enforcement, that I’m running for constable, they say, “Hey, that’s great. But what do you do?”
If they don’t know what we do, and the citizens don’t know what we do, then the office is not utilized correctly.
So, somehow, I want to get the name out and our responsibilities, so we can say, “Here’s what we do, here’s how we can help you. Call us. We’re always at our office here in the basement of the courthouse. If someone is screaming to have someone evicted, call us.”
JIMMY HODGES – I believe that since I was appointed to this office in 2012, my relationship with the sheriff’s office and the police department speaks for itself.
I’ve always had a good relationship with both agencies and with the DA’s office as well. They have an investigator. I know the sheriff myself and we communicate very well. He knows he can call the constable’s office if he has anything he needs help with.
I’ve assisted the sheriff’s department. They call on constables to help with patrols. In the past year alone, we’ve served 596 notices of hearings to take some of the load from the sheriff’s department so they don’t have to worry about that. The same is true with the police department.
I have received calls from investigators and patrolmen asking about certain cases or certain individuals, and my office is always willing to help in any way we can. I’m only an email or phone call away.
One thing I’d like to assure you, once or twice a month the chief, sheriff and constable’s office get together and discuss things that are going on in the county to see if we can help each other, because we all have resources to pull together to try to make this a safer community.
That’s what it boils down to — we’re all in this together. Thank you.
JIMMY DON CLARK – Two things can happen when you work together with all the law enforcement agencies. No. 1, you help the community. No. 2, everyone will know exactly what the constable does.
When I’m talking about helping with other agencies such as the sheriff’s office, Paris PD, the Reno PD, it could be a situation where we may be out serving papers or looking for someone, and a call come in, whether it’s a major accident where they may need assistance with traffic control, or something like that, we can be out there to help, which frees up one of their officers who might be stuck out on that accident just directing traffic.
Also, we can help out with arrest warrants. It could be some people here in the precinct that we may know where they’re at, and we can go try to arrest those people.
The law enforcement community always wants to work together anyway, and if you’re seen and the people know that you’re out there, then everything is going to be a lot better when you do cooperate, in whatever way it needs to be done to help the community.
That’s the main thing. Help the people and help the community that you’re serving. Thank you
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra