Sheriff candidates Ron Carroll of Canton, Dale Corbett of Wills Point, Anthony Katsoulas of Canton, and Sam Mayer of Edgewood met with more than 200 constituents and answered questions of moderators, which were prepared in advance, at the January 11, 2016 Canton Tea Party sponsored Candidate Forum, at the Church of Christ on Big Rock. Moderators were Andrew Vaughn of Andrew Vaughn Law Firm and Timna Rutledge of The Northeast Texan online news source. The candidates are seeking the office being vacated by current Sheriff M.L. Ray.
Each candidate answered questions and made opening and closing statements in alphabetical order according to surname. Ron Carroll was first to the microphone to provide information about himself and his campaign. Carroll served as Precinct 4 VZC Commissioner from 2002-2014. He is a Vietnam Veteran and former Chief of Police with more than 33 years law enforcement service. He was Canton Police Chief for nine years.
He pointed out that the current Sheriff is 457,000 dollars over budget, despite 346,000 dollars extra money granted to the Department by the Commissioner’s Court. Carroll also said that we are sending prisoners to Henderson County, and claimed, “I have a plan to stop that.”
Dale Corbett began his career in law enforcement in 1975 in Van, Texas, and is a 50-year resident of Van Zandt County. He’s spent 30 years serving VZC and is currently the Captain at the VZC Sheriff Department. As Captain, Corbett explained that he has oversight of the budget, patrol operations, fleet maintenance, and the field training program. Corbett said, “We have a crime problem in Van Zandt County, is why we have an overcrowded jail… We’re averaging 6.2 arrests per day.”
According to Corbett, 2,279 people were arrested last year. Over 500 of them were females transferred to Henderson County, because Van Zandt County hasn’t the facilities for them. He acknowledged that Commissioners are working on a plan to expand the jail and house female prisoners, however, Corbett said, “Currently, the County’s broke, folks.”
Anthony “Big Tony” Katsoulas, a naturalized American originally from Australia, commanded attention as he immediately declared himself the most qualified candidate there, with both national and international experience as a peace officer. He said, “There are certain people who have said, ‘Big Tony can’t possibly have all these qualifications.’ Well, the world is a bigger place than Van Zandt County.” Katsoulas then referenced a quote made more than 2,000 years ago by a Roman Emperor named Marcus Aurelius. “Just because things are difficult for you, don’t think it’s impossible for others.”
Katsoulas has been a police officer for over 35 years, and is funding his own campaign, being independently wealthy. He boasted that his three sons have all served in the United States military, and Katsoulas himself has spent the last few years working for Pct. 2 Constable C.B. Wiley, without pay, while providing his own police vehicles, fuel, and forensic equipment in order to better serve citizens of VZC at his own expense.
As he asked for votes, Katsoulas said, “I’m a proud US citizen and a Constitutional conservative. I believe in the Bible and the US Constitution.”
Sam Mayer currently works as an investigator for the Rains County Sheriff Department, and boasts of living all his life in Van Zandt County. He served in the Texas Army National Guard and began his law enforcement career in the Van Zandt County jail. He worked his way up to patrolman then, investigator. He is a licensed jailor and peace officer, and pointed out that he is the only candidate who has worked in two different jails.
Mayer said, “This is your home, ladies and gentlemen. This is my home. I want to make this the safest place I can. I’m here for the long haul. I’m here for y’all.”
The first question asked was, “What do you feel is your absolute, number one qualification to be Sheriff?”
Carroll answered, “Well, I think 21 years as a police chief would qualify… I’ve got over 3,000 hours of training, a masters certification in law enforcement… One of the candidates said that he was the most qualified one here, but I don’t think there’s a candidate here who has spent 21 years as Police Chief and 12 years as Commissioner and worked on million dollar budgets.”
Corbett’s answer: “I currently hold an active Master Peace Officer Certification…I’m a member of the National Sheriff’s Association, I received training from the National Institute of Corrections. I also received training from Sam Houston University, Enforcement Leadership Academy… and the United States Department of Justice on numerous different schools: DEA, Narcotics Training, Crime Scene… I just feel I’m the most qualified. I’ve got 30 years experience right here in Van Zandt County.”
Katsoulas answered, “…I’ve been here [the United States] 25 years. I started my career at the New South Wales Police, it’s the second largest police department in the world of 20,000. The first is the NYPD. “ He then talked about being the subject of attempted murder two different times during two different investigations of police corruption. “Seven men have tried and seven men have failed to kill me; and I find that corruption is one of the biggest problems that I face in law enforcement, not only here, but all over the country.”
“And, I have everyone’s records here,” continued Katsoulas, “They’re TCOLE hours. So, when someone tells me they have 3,000 hours, and TCOLE tells me they have 945 hours, I will gladly give this to anybody who wants it. My attitude is this: either we’re going to have a clean county or we’re not. And, you can’t clean up the county when you can’t clean up your own house.”
Mayer’s answer: “I believe my number one qualification would have to be that all of my career has been in county-level law enforcement. Not city, not state, not federal. It’s been at county level. I’ve attended East Texas Baptist University for the Leadership School. Right now I’m the Training Coordinator at Rains County, overseeing all the training. I’ve also got right at 1900 hours in training, in TCOLE hours. I believe that my experience and my eagerness to work with other elected officials, as I put my ego aside and work with the Commissioners, along with the County Judge, along with everyone else throughout this County is what will make me the best Sheriff candidate.”
The question of the number one law enforcement issue in Van Zandt County was discussed. Carroll believes drugs is the number one problem, and that all theft is related to drugs. Solving the overcrowding problem in the jail is of primary concern with him as well.
Corbett said, “The biggest problem we have in Van Zandt County is the crime problem.” He went on to name theft, murders, and drug dealing. He advocated more cooperation between various law enforcement agencies.
Katsoulas answered, “You know, Albert Einstein once said, ‘If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity.’” He posed the question, “When was the last time a deputy pulled you over, introduced himself, and gave you his card?”
Katsoulas advocated developing relationships with the people in the community to foster trust. “The fact is, a lot of people in the County have told me they don’t trust us, they don’t trust the police; and that’s the problem, because if you can’t speak to us, we can’t solve your problem. It’s as simple as that.”
Mayer said, “The biggest problem is that we have to raise the standard in which we operate as law enforcement. Across the State of Texas we are being attacked as law enforcement. We have to raise that standard. We have to come out and operate at a higher standard both on the streets, and in the jail, so that we can work together and put the bickering aside. Then we can continue to use the resources that we have to fight the crime, and not fight amongst ourselves.”
Candidates were asked, “What experience do you have with managing and following a budget and what plan do you have to insure county funds are used efficiently?”
The main point of Carroll’s answer was that as Pct. 4 Commissioner, he never went over budget for roads and bridges. Corbett insisted, “We need a new jail.” Katsoulas said that he grew up managing great wealth, and he knows how to balance a checkbook. He was the “black sheep of the family” because he went into law enforcement. He said that the County needs to do the best they can with what they have. Mayer suggested the County think outside the box and learn to work together, and “get by with what we have.”
Candidates offered the following ideas and plans regarding solutions to jail overcrowding, any of which would need approval by the County Commissioners Court after Sheriff Department budget needs are presented:
Carroll suggested maximizing the current County Jail by adding to it. He said that it might require a couple hundred thousand dollars, but is needed.
Corbett said that he had met with two County Commissioners who had drawn up plans to expand the jail by 30 beds, and the price tag was 3.5 million dollars, about 100,000 dollars per bed. He concluded and said that the jail standards are set by Texas Jail Standards, not the Sheriff.
Katsoulas said, “Okay. Simple Mathematics. If we’re losing 30,000 a month over a period of five years, that’s 1.8 million dollars. I can go into any bank in Texas and get a loan and show them that I am paying 30,000 dollars a month and have the ability to pay that back in the loan and build an addition to the jail and pay for itself. …If I’m throwing away 30,000 dollars a month, burning it, and I go to a bank and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this 30,000 I’m throwing away anyway, let’s build a jail, and I can prove to you I can pay you two million in five years, why wouldn’t you do that? Or, would you rather throw away another two million every five years, you know? Common sense.”
Mayer said, “The Sheriff doesn’t get to decide whether they build another jail. He can go for it, but at the same time we have to stop and we have to think, ‘What as a Sheriff can we do to change what we got. We have to work with what we got?’” He suggested that more citations be issued for Class A and B misdemeanors for non-violent crimes, so we don’t fill up our jail.
The last question reminded candidates of the Mack/Printz v. USA Supreme Court decision that won victory over the Clinton Administration’s Brady Bill and recognized states’ rights and local sovereignty, specifically when it comes to the Second Amendment right of citizens to keep and bear arms; and deny conscription of local law enforcement by federal agencies that would work together to confiscate citizens’ arms.
The question: How would you be willing to defend the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should federal agents attempt to enlist your department’s assistance to disarm any of the people of Van Zandt County?
A supporter of Open Carry and member of the NRA, Carroll said, “Would I, if the President ordered me to take guns away from everybody? I guess I would have to be put in prison because I wouldn’t do it, because that’s a violation of the Second Amendment by doing that.”
An avid hunter and member of the NRA, Corbett answered, “The day they come take your guns, we’ll all go to jail because I’m not taking nobody’s guns.”
Katsoulas is a life member and endowment member of the NRA and reminded the crowd of history when he said, “2,000 years ago 300 Spartans stood before a million Persians, and when they said, ‘Give up your weapons,’ they said in ancient Greek ‘Molon labe,’ ‘Come and take it.’ Molon labe is a message to the federal government. You want my gun? Come and take it. Because I’ve been there before in Australia, where we are facing now. One person killed 13 people, and I had to give up 400 weapons and watch them being crushed in the machine; and that will never happen to me again. You want it, you better kill me.”
Mayer said, “I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe if the President put down an order to take the guns of the citizens of Van Zandt County, that either ‘A,’ we’re going to come to a solution, or ‘B,’ if they show up, the only way they’re coming through me, is prying it out of my dead, cold hands. I would not let them take guns from the citizens…. We’ve got to fight for what we believe in, and there is no way we we’re going to allow the federal government to come in here and trample the Constitution. No way.”
Look for upcoming articles detailing candidates for State Board of Education and County Commissioners who also attended this forum.