NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges started his first year as sheriff in a tight spot with nearly a million dollars cut from his budget, man power issues and long list of things to do.
Bridges sat down with the East Texas News to talk about all the accomplishments his department has achieved despite numerous challenges.
"With everything we've been faced with it's really mind-boggling to think of everything we've accomplished here," said Bridges.
Sheriff Bridges walked into his new office with less money to work with, $20,000 in overtime putting him over budget and fewer personnel.
"Our first and biggest challenge which probably most new sheriffs took on was manpower issues and budget issues. Just before I took office as sheriff we received a pretty big budget cut here due to the financial state of the county which we understood had to be done but that's quite a task for a new sheriff or even an experienced sheriff to take on board," said Bridges. "We took nearly right at a million dollars in budget cuts here. We lost 16 key personnel, 13 out of the jail, 2 CID officers as well and 1 deputy at the courthouse. We had nearly $20k over budget when I took over in the jail alone as a salaries line item and we had to fix that or we would be over so we had 9 months to do it in and we did it."
Even with the overwhelming challenges the sheriff's office made accomplished quite a lot including completing a slew of much needed renovations.
"We did our own renovations as we could within the jail using inmate labor that's probably saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for taxpayers."
Bridges says they reduced inmate meal costs by $100,000 with help from the new inmate garden.
"That has been a great success for us…every penny counts and it helped us save enough to get through this budget," said Bridges.
The jail also brought back a lot of education programs to help rehabilitate those who spend time behind bars.
"We have initiated back our GED program within our jail, an AA program within our jail, we have actively opened our doors to our pastors in the community," said Bridges. "We try to create an environment in the jail where our inmates can be successful when they get out." "It has changed some lives here and if you affect 1 or 2 people that can affect a family and a family affects a community and that's what we're trying to do here."
Bridges says deputies recovered more than $600,000 in stolen property.
"One of our most significant cases we cleared was the Holliman case out in Melrose. We cleared over 30 burglaries on that," said Bridges. "The good thing about that case is that we were so proactive trying to solve that case that we ended up arresting 15 other people in connections with other burglaries and thefts."
Bridges also kept his campaign promise of being more proactive and cracking down on drugs in the county.
"In 2012 before I took over there was 199 felony cases filed with the sheriff's office well even with less personnel we filed 266 cases this year that's 67 more cases with less personnel," said Bridges.
The department took 11,894 calls for service, worked 114 burglaries (133 in 2012) 138 thefts (289 in 2012), 28 auto thefts (28 in 2012), executed 46 search warrants and investigated 152 narcotics cases.