Sheriff, precinct commissioner candidates speak at primary debate

By Moses Leos III

No punches were held by a challenger vying for Hays County Sheriff as he teed off on his incumbent opponent who didn’t attend Monday’s Hays County League of  Women Voters debate.  

Tommy Ratliff, who is running in the Republican primary for Hays County Sheriff, further slung mud against incumbent Gary Cutler at the debate held at the San Marcos Activity Center. 

Cutler was not able to attend the event.

Without Cutler there, Ratliff wasted little time going after the incumbent.

Ratliff, who served as Hays County Sheriff from 2008-2010, said he brought the Hays County Jail into compliance within a two year span while he was sheriff. When he “handed the reins” to Cutler, he said within two months, two people escaped from jail.

Ratliff claimed Cutler was a “part-time” sheriff. 

“I will be available  to you and be there for you,” he told audience members. “Integrity will always be my priority.” 

Ratliff later went on to say that there is “not one sheriff that would have left the county” during a disaster. 

“Had they left the county, not one of them wouldn’t have come back,” he said. 

During the Memorial Day flood, Cutler was en route to Europe when the event hit. Cutler was unable to get a return flight home to Texas. 

Regarding overcrowding at the Hays County Jail, Ratliff said there were 100 inmates that are housed in four different counties. 

He claimed there were 100 empty beds in the jail. 

“If you have empty beds in the jail, we should be watching them here,” Ratliff later answered an audience member’s question on the topic. 

In a written statement, Cutler acknowledged the overcrowding in the Hays County Jail, saying he had to implement outsourcing of prisoners after a three-and-a-half year moratorium. 

During the moratorium, Cutler said in his statement he saved taxpayers $500,000. 

Cutler wrote in a statement that he was the “only fully qualified candidate” for sheriff. 

He wrote that he has a proven track record for “transparency, fiscal conservancy, honesty, passion and integrity.” 

In addition, he wrote that he refers to the District Attorney, grand jury or Attorney General’s office for just decisions for citizens. He also said that his first priority is that citizens are safe and that “we remain vigilant in our efforts to be tough on crime.” 

“I have kept the promises I have made,” Cutler said. 

Precinct 2 constable debate

Differing opinions on what’s the most important duty of a Hays County constable led off Monday’s debate between two candidates and an incumbent for the Pct. 2 Republican primary. 

Candidate Steve Avalos said one of the most important aspects for the constable’s office was to be in touch with the community and citizens. Processing civil papers was important, but Avalos believed the job goes “further than that.” 

He added the office needed to grow with its precinct and citizens, and that the office also has to grow with training for deputies.

“It’s the ability to work with people and understand what people want,” Avalos said. 

Candidate Jimmy Zuehlke said a constable should “be professional and look professional.” He added a constable’s most important job is community service. 

Zuehlke added the office should raise its “level of professionalism and competency” for new residents moving to the area. 

Incumbent James Kohler, who has been Precinct 2 constable for 38 years, was confident in saying he would enjoy working as constable for another four years. He added that he takes “care of people in my precinct, in Hays County.” 

Kohler also said he didn’t think his opponents are “truthful on some of their stuff” and that he is the “best man for the job.” 

“I take care of the youth of this county and the people of this county,” Kohler said. “I’ve done a damn good job. I expect to be here for four more years.” 

 

Precinct 5 constable debate

A pair of candidates got their first chance to square off against an incumbent in the Republican primary debate for Hays County Constable Pct. 5. 

Candidate Mitchell Johnson, who has worked as a deputy in Precinct 2, said the primary role of a constable was to maintain a quality of law enforcement that “you and the public wants.” He said the office should “treat the public the way you want to be treated.” 

Johnson said that increased growth means the constable’s office should maintain and keep up with calls for service and serving civil documents. 

“What’s important is giving back to the public,” he said. “I think I’m qualified for the job.” 

But incumbent Matt Mancillas III differed, saying the most important part of the constable’s job is the civil process. He said the office will treat people with dignity, and that they can’t trample on civil liberties. 

“We’re not here to be anyone’s friend or walk or mow their lawn. This is law enforcement work,” Mancillas said. “We are here to do a job and we need to focus on it.” 

Mancillas said rapid growth means looking seriously at the constable’s budget and resources and what the office can do “with a limited budget and resources.” 

On a question on fiscal stewardship, Mancillas said his office purchased vehicles that saved $2,000. He said the amount went to purchase AR-15 rifles. 

“I am a good constable. We have an excellent office and we don’t have complaints,” Mancillas said. “We don’t stop people for no reasons.” 

Candidate John Ellen said people are “hungry” to have the constable office out to patrol and get involved int he community. He said more needs to be done for constables to be involved in schools and the growing community. 

“The days to wait for papers to show up has passed,” Ellen said. “There is more that needs to be done.” 

He added that the office can work within the budget they have, but still progress forward. 

“We can’t sit on our laurels and move forward on just our constitutional mandate,” Ellen said. 

CORRECTION: In our print edition, we reported that Gary Cutler said in his statement outsourcing prisoner programs have saved taxpayers $5,000. Cutler said in his statement he had to implement outsourcing prisoners after a three-and-a-half year moratorium. Cutler said in his statement the county saved taxpayers $500,000 during the moratorium. We apologize for the error. 

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