NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Two experienced lawmen are running for the office of Nacogdoches County sheriff.
Thomas Kerss wants to keep his sheriff's badge, while Constable Jason Bridges would like the pin and the job that goes with it.
As the incumbent of over 11 years, Kerss points out his years of experience as a career law enforcement officer.
"In 1990 I moved to the sheriff's office as a patrol deputy and then quickly worked my way up through the ranks from patrol deputy to patrol sergeant, criminal investigator, lieutenant," Kerss said. "Eventually made chief deputy and worked in that position for about 7 1/2 years before being elected as the sheriff of the county. I have over 30 years in law enforcement all together now."
Jason Bridges draws on military police experience and most recently his years as constable for precinct four.
"When the community comes to you and they see a difference they feel safer, their schools are better, that's the ultimate compliment and it's just being proactive, it's having the leadership that I've gained in the 19 years of law enforcement, the standards that I set for my officers and being proactive," Bridges said. "We're doing the job right."
Kerss learned quickly a sheriff's role takes him into budget talks, jail regulations, staff management and a close working relationship with federal, state and local agencies. In his opinion, the ability to deal with all that is what sets him apart from his opponent.
"Obviously, we are both good law enforcement officers, but this is a law enforcement job," Kerss said. "The real challenge I think we face right now is how we can continue to provide the level of service that we're seeing with less resources because in these economic times nobody wants or can afford more taxes. One certainly equals to the other."
"I think the biggest difference between me and my opponent is priorities," Bridges said. "My priority is going to be on leadership. It's going to be on structure of the sheriff's office and it's going to be on training. When you have those three things in place you will succeed."
Early in the campaign, Bridges said he would surround himself with good people to crunch the numbers, while he would go out in the wee hours of the morning to answer calls. Bridges is pointing out he knows all about budgets and handling taxpayer dollars.
"You know we run a budget here," Bridges said. "No, it's not a $6 million budget, but a budget is a budget. I've run a budget in Iraq where I led a 16-man team, but it comes down to this. I have reviewed his budget and we ave seen a lot of things that we think are out of line that we think we can fix and get back on track."
Bottom line, there's a disagreement over who has and can do the better job in fighting crime.
"And I think my track record shows that over the years we've been able to operate within our budgets and maintain a very safe and efficient county law enforcement presence with very limited resources that we had to work with," Kerss said.
"We've pushed the drug dealers out of our precinct," Bridges said. "We've put 'em in jail. Some of them are in prison. We've pushed the rest of them out of here. They don't want to be here because they know we are coming after them. That's what we need countywide."
There's one approach in the campaign the two men share. They're asking for Nacogdoches County residents to support them in the run for Nacogdoches County sheriff.
"I have no higher honor in my professional career than serving as the sheriff of Nacogdoches County," Kerss said.
"I would appreciate it, everyone's support most of all," Bridges said. "I would appreciate your vote in the upcoming elections."