Gray County Sheriff candidates take center stage at Monday’s candidate forum
On Monday evening, the Gray County Republican Party held their Candidate Forum ahead of early voting, which starts next Tueday, Feb. 18.
The forum provided a platform for candidates including the United States Representative for Texas in Place 13, Court of Appeals Seat 7, Gray County commissioners in Precincts 1 and 3 and arguably the most hotly contested: Gray County Sheriff.
This article will detail the sheriff candidates and how they answered the the questions from the audience. The commissioner and representative positions will be detailed in later articles.
There are three candidates running for sheriff: the incumbent Michael “Big Mac” Ryan, Randy Stubblefield and Stormy McCullar.
Candidates were allowed three minutes to talk about themselves and why voters should select them on Election Day. Then, during the question and answer section, candidates were presented with a question and allowed one minute to answer.
Stormy McCullar — McCullar said fiscal responsibility and integrity should be the characteristics you find in the sheriff. McCullar graduated from Pampa High School in 1995 and started her law enforcement career in 2000.
“I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend and a police officer. Most importantly I’m a follower of Christ,” McCullar said. “I’ve worked both sides of the criminal justice system. I’ve worked the law enforcement side and the prosecution side.”
McCullar said the sheriff’s role is an administrator who oversees a budget that is more than $3.5 million and said that budget was over-budget around $260,000.
“As a tax-payer this is irresponsible,” McCullar said. “The sheriff is responsible for maintaining jail standards, to know the laws and what to expect for the jail to run efficiently.”
McCullar calls for good leadership and management and feels she can bring that to Gray County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m a person who understands how important fiscal responsibility is,” McCullar said. “I’m a person who understands management and leadership. I’m a person with integrity.”
Michael Ryan — Ryan, who is most known as Big Mac, recognized his wife of almost 20 years and said he has a bachelor’s degree in public safety/emergency management, is a master peace officer, master jailer, master arson investigator and has had a hand in almost anything that involves law enforcement.
“We started our first Gray County school resource officer who goes to McLean, Lefors, Grandview-Hopkins and even here in town sometimes,” Ryan said. “I know there will be questions asked about the budget, I’m ready for those questions.”
Randy Stubblefield— Randy Stubblefield introduced his wife and talked about his family. Stubblefield, who grew up in Pampa with 30 years of experience in law enforcement and was a former sheriff.
“During that time I worked our budget and worked as hard as I could to keep our inmate population down,” Stubblefield said. “During that time I turned back over $400,000 of our budget, which is your tax dollars. What I see today is the budget is completely out of control.”
Stubblefield said when he was sheriff the budget would go to the District Attorney’s office when the jail reached 55 to 60 inmates and ask for help in moving inmates out.
“We worked and got them through the court system,” Stubblefield said. “They didn’t all go to trial, some of them did go to trial. But we weren’t housing them anymore.”
Stubblefield mentioned several inmates are housed out of county and talked about the cost of medical, food and other jail costs.
Question and answers
The question was asked about how the candidates would address the turnover at the jail and the sheriff’s office:
Stubblefield: Stubblefield stressed that GCSO is a big part of the community and needs to remember that.
“We have to be in touch with all of the community and with all of our kids,” Stubblefield said. “I don’t want to lose the kids. I want the kids to say, ‘There’s Sheriff Stubblefield. There’s Sheriff McCullar. There’s Sheriff Ryan. He’s my buddy.’ If we can maintain that with the kids. We won’t have problems later on with them.”
Stubblefield said the department needs to maintain the feeling they work for the public.
“We’re going to work with you and will maintain that everything we do is a reflection of [the public],” Stubblefield said. “Because we work for you.”
Ryan: Ryan said most of the corrections officers that work in the jail come in and they quit.
“They see the job and want to come in and do what they see on TV and other areas and it’s not for them,” Ryan said. “Then there are some that you don’t want to catch in a bad situation. They are lackadaisical and don’t want to do their job. In that profession if you don’t do your job and stay on your toes, you’re going to get hit in the head or choked out or something.”
Ryan added it’s a matter of getting the good employees in and trained.
McCullar: McCullar called to the leadership and said the turnover didn’t exist four years ago.
“You have to ask yourself what is the issue?” McCullar said. “It is the leadership. You have to get good leadership.”
A question was asked about the budget and what measures will be put in place to control the budget.
Stubblefield: Stubblefield said there needs to be a visual look at the budget to make sure the department is staying within the percentage it needs to be.
“I think there are expenses in the jail that needs to be cut such as the housing inmates at $210,000 somewhere else when we could shuffle them through the system,” Stubblefield said. “We’ll save money in jail food, medical and get the numbers down to cut those expenses. You have to be able to talk to the DA and the county attorney and say you need help to get your numbers down.”
Ryan: Ryan said the “wonderful, young” law enforcement agencies in the area are bringing in jail population.
“We have more people in jail than we’ve ever had,” Ryan said. “Did we go over budget? Yes, we won’t over budget. I’m not going to stand here and lie to you. But if we have more people in jail, it’s going to take more people to do what we need to do.”
McCullar: McCullar said she doesn’t think going to the District Attorney’s office will fix the problem.
“If you know how the criminal justice works,” McCullar said. “When you have bad guys in the jail like your murders, sex offenders, etc. You do not want them out of jail. Our office (the District Attorney’s office) works federal cases. Clearing out the jail that way isn’t going to work.”
McCullar said there is a need for a new jail administrator who knows the job, how to do it and said four years ago there wasn’t an issue with overcrowding.
The candidates were each asked if they were under indictment or legal investigation for theft or any felony.
Stubblefield: Stubblefield said “No, never have been, never will be.”
Ryan: Ryan came forward and said one day he had gotten sick and when he came back to the office there was some money missing from his petty cash.
“That’s been going on through the Texas Rangers who are working on it and getting it straightened out,” Ryan said. “No, I’m not under investigation. There are no criminal penalties or anything like that.”
McCullar: McCullar said she was not under any investigation.
A question was asked to Sheriff Ryan if he there was any action taken to ensure the Gray County Jail didn’t fail a jail inspection.
Ryan: Ryan said they hadn’t failed any jail inspections.
“Last year we were [audited] and we had an issue with some of our documents,” Ryan said. “We replaced the documents, did some training with the people and then two or three weeks later that was taken off of our system. We never actually failed a jail inspection.”
A question for Randy Stubblefield was asked if the arrests were going up, which would cause the jail population to go up, is the number of arrests a good or bad reflection on the sheriff.
Stubblefield: Stubblefield acknowledged the amount of arrests had gone up and agrees the murderers and sex offenders needs to stay in jail, but he calls for the arrests traffic offenses to go down.
“We don’t need people in there for speeding tickets, running stop signs and illegal lane changes,” Stubblefield said. “We don’t need to put them in jail. Class C misdemeanors, public intoxication? Put them in jail. But we don’t need to house these others.”
The question was asked how to reduce the cost of the jail and improve the morale.
Stubblefield: Stubblefield said to keep the numbers down on the jail they need to change the meal plan.
“Right now they are cooking meals and up until recently, from what I understand, they were buying food from Ben E. Keith,” Stubblefield said. “We could’ve bought from Affiliated and saved money. We don’t have to serve gourmet meals. Jail standard says 1,800 calories a day, you break that down, 600 calories a meal. We don’t have to feed meals to the inmates that are better than our seniors and kids at school.”
Ryan: Ryan agreed the food is expensive and said they have cut the meals and kept the same nutritional value. Ryan added the jail and department was under-manned some, which may have led to some difficult times in morale.
“We’ve been through comp time and dealing with that,” Ryan said. “Once we get them manned and get some guys moved up and ready everything will be okay.”
McCullar: McCullar said the leadership is important and there needs to be someone who will set an example.
“If their employees can look up to them, not as a boss but as a true leader,” McCullar said. “That’s what I hope to bring to the sheriff’s office and Gray County.”
A question was asked if sheriff was a full-time job or not.
Stubblefield: It’s a double-time job.
Ryan: Double-time job.
McCullar said: More than a full-time job.
A question was asked what are other means to repair the jail budget besides jail management.
Stubblefield: Stubblefield said the jail was the biggest part of the budget and said you can’t limit fuel costs and travel time for deputies.
“There’s incidental expenses on the building that needs to be done,” Stubblefield said. “There is training that is mandated by the state that we all have to go to.”
Ryan: Ryan said there isn’t a lot besides the jail to cut.
“We can cut down on costs by watching what we’re doing,” Ryan said. “No more hitting deer. We could do little things like that and around the office. Purchases as Sam’s. Basically stuff where we pull things together and make it happen.”
McCullar: McCullar said it’s about choices and didn’t agree with the purchase of the new computer system that “doesn’t work” for the jail.
“With that poor choice and thousands of dollars spent later, we’re stuck with that new system,” McCullar said. “As a leader, if you make good choices we can cut back on costs and save money.”
Early voting starts Tuesday, Feb. 18 and Election Day is March 3.