Long Knives Drawn Against Former Texas Ranger in Race for Tom Green County Sheriff
SAN ANGELO, TX — “I think this election is about the tax paying residents of Tom Green County,” begins San Angelo Airport Policeman Bruce Burkett in his 581 word critique on Facebook of retired Texas Ranger J. Nick Hanna who is running for Tom Green County Sheriff.
Burkett’s two gripes about Hanna’s quest to become the next sheriff are that he is double-dipping retirement and Sheriff David Jones facilitated his ascension to chief deputy, the number two position at the sheriff’s office, immediately after Hanna retired from the State of Texas. Hanna retired from the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety late last year. Dale Pearce, who served the county with distinction as deputy sheriff, retired months prior to Hanna’s retirement then appointment. The appearance was that Jones was hand-picking his successor, raising the eyebrows of opponent Keith Muncey’s supporters.
“What a good ‘ol boy deal,” lamented a Muncey supporter at the most recent Concho Valley Republic Women luncheon last month.
Hanna and Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Keith Muncey are at loggerheads, fighting for the Republican nomination for the office of sheriff. Early voting is ongoing through Friday and Election Day is Tuesday, March 3. Because there are no Democratic Party candidates, the winner of the Republican Primary next Tuesday will be the next sheriff.
Burkett complained in a widely shared Facebook post about Hanna’s appointment as Deputy Sheriff, and should he get elected sheriff, that it will “stress” county taxpayers.
“The last two sheriffs for Tom Green County have been retired from the Texas Department of Public Safety. We’ve had Joe Hunt a retired Texas Ranger, and now David Jones. This means as a taxpayer we have been in a tax paying loop for these folks. We’ve paid into their salaries as a state employee, and are paying into the account to have them retired from the State of Texas, and then as active employee’s of Tom Green County. Now we are going to pay two of them county retirement plans. At the salaries they were pulling in that’s not a bad deal unless you’re the taxpayer,” Burkett wrote.
We contacted Hanna and he issued a press statement going into the details of his retirement from the State of Texas. Receiving retirement earned from a government agency for many years of service does not disqualify that person from continuing to serve in the public sector, Hanna wrote. Indeed, if that were the case all military retirees, such as those who retire after 20 years of service, some as young as 37 years old for enlisted personnel who joined a branch of the service right out of high school, would not be eligible to be policemen, firemen, or work in civil service at Goodfellow Air Force Base, for example.
The tenure required for a State law enforcement retirement is similar to the military’s. Hanna served 25 years with the DPS and Texas Rangers, earning his retirement in his early 50s. The difference between a military retirement and a State retirement, according to Hanna, is that State employees contribute their own salary into their retirement and the State matches their contribution. Military retirees generally are not required to contribute.
In an interview, Hanna countered Burkett’s initial argument, that the election is about the tax paying citizens of Tom Green County. “From a fiscal perspective, the impact of my position as Chief Deputy or as the elected Sheriff is zero,” Hanna said.
“I do not believe an honorably retired Texas Ranger should be castigated because of service to the State of Texas,” Hanna stated.
On the other hand, “The election March 3 is a question of who is best qualified to meet the law enforcement challenges of the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office for the next four years,” he countered.
Hanna laid out the primary challenges facing the county sheriff. “We have a narcotics epidemic that is harming our youth and young adults, forcing many to commit burglary, robbery, and assaults just to pay for their drug habits. At the same time, about 50 percent of the calls for service for law enforcement concern domestic violence. We had a senseless murder last weekend that was the result somewhat of a domestic dispute,” he said. “We need to curb the plague of hard narcotics and the senseless acts of violence that accompanies it before we lose control of our communities. You do this by holding those who break the law accountable”
Hanna stressed that his experience at the state level of law enforcement gave him a wide breadth of experience his opponent does not have. Muncey has only served as a law enforcement officer at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, providing Muncey a great depth of experience with that agency but no where else. Hanna, on the other hand, has fulfilled roles across the state, including police officer, a DPS trooper based out of San Angelo, and as Texas Ranger.
Depth versus breath of experience is another issue Burkett raised. He contended that the successful tenure of San Angelo Police Chief Frank Carter supports his argument that growing our own law enforcement leadership from within the local agency is the best option. It is also risky. Like Carter, former Police Chief Tim Vasquez rose out of the ranks of the San Angelo Police Department. Today, Vasquez is facing a federal indictment for public corruption.
Hanna wouldn’t comment on that. Instead he said, “I prepared myself for the role of sheriff through the years of service with the State and now I’m asking for your vote so that together we can build upon the legacy of the leading law enforcement agency in the county and I believe the best sheriff’s office west of Fort Worth.”
“Let’s clean up the narcotics problems and the other crimes by holding law breakers accountable. That is a job I have prepared for all my professional life,” he said.
When Burkett posted his piece, the Keith Muncey Campaign Facebook page shared it. “From another law enforcement officer's perspective, I agree. I also appreciate Bruce taking the time to type this message!” was the lead-in statement at the top of the shared post.
However, Keith Muncey distanced himself from Burkett’s salvo over Facebook in a telephone interview this morning. “I cannot control what all my supporters say,” he said. “I have nothing but good things to say about my opponent Nick Hanna.”
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