The highly competitive Republican primary race for the Precinct 1 constable seat has both candidatestaking jabs at the other in open debates and through their supporters.
Incumbent Jesse Flores, 44,and challenger Johnny Hammons, 50, each say they are more qualified for the job than the other and are ready to fight for the seat in the March 4 primary. No Democrat has filed for the position.
Flores was appointed to the seat by county commissioners in May 2013 after the death of Precinct 1 Constable Jim Dotson in late 2012. Hammons was a deputy constable in the office at the time and said he was fired by Flores when Flores took office.
Precinct 1 serves Denton, Shady Shores, Lake Dallas, Corinth and Hickory Creek. Constables earn a yearly salary of $77,977, according to Denton County budget director Donna Stewart.
Constables are certified peace officers with the same law enforcement powers as police officers and often participate actively in criminal investigations.
Constables also serve as bailiffs for the justice of the peace courts and serve subpoenas and papers necessary to the functioning of the civil and criminal justice systems,according to the Texas Association of Counties. Constables also ensure that judgments rendered in civil cases are satisfied.
Flores served as an officer with the Lewisville Police Department for 21 years before he was tapped to serve as constable in May. He was appointed by the Denton County Republican Party and approved by commissioners, and has been serving the remainder of Dotson’s four-year term.
Hammons started his law enforcement career as a Denton County detention officer before serving as bailiff in Criminal Court No. 3. Later he served as a transport deputy before serving under Dotson for 10 years as a deputy constable. He has a combined 20 years of experience in law enforcement.
Hammons isn’t running on “sour grapes” because, in his opinion, he has seen the office fall since Flores was sworn in, he said.
“I want to do Jim [Dotson] proud and make the office as productive and efficient as it once was,” Hammons said. “It’s time to put the office back to its conservative roots. Jim was very frugal.”
Flores said he was able to turn an estimated $20,000 budget surplus over to the county, even though he didn’t have any hand in creating the budget.
“I am bringing us up to speed in technology, and I outfitted our vehicles with ‘police’ written on the back,” he said. “Before, when the vehicles just said ‘constable,’ people would speed right past me because they thought I wasn’t able to write them a ticket.”
Flores wants his constituents to understand what a constable does and has been providing additional firearms training to his staff. He wants to ensure they don’t get caught in dangerous situations such as when they serve papers to angry people, Flores said.
“My office has a combined 150 years experience in law enforcement and has been working to educate the public,including visiting schools and passing out literature,” he said. “In addition,we have a very dangerous job and the additional training will assist us greatly.”
Hammons said he thinks that public outreach is fine, as long the job gets done.
“If elected, I would place focus on reducing the backlog of Class C warrants and place more emphasis on civil and criminal process training because right now, I think this is a big problem,” he said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.
DENTON COUNTY PRECINCT 1 CONSTABLE
Occupation: Denton County Precinct 1 constable
Prior political history: Appointed May 7, 2013, to Precinct 1 constable
Background: Served 21 years with the Lewisville Police Department until being appointed tothe constable’s job in May; member of the Denton County Republican Assembly,Denton County Republican Club, Denton Republican Women’s Club, Flower Mound Area Republican Club and Pachyderm Club of Denton County; member of the Denton Chamber of Commerce, Lake Cities Chamber of Commerce and Denton Black Chamber of Commerce.
Top priorities for office: Concentrate on serving civil papers for the justice of the peace court; providing courtroom security with bailiffs; executing all warrants out of the JP court; provide extra visibility in the community and training for the office staff to enhance services and reduce liability; and to continue to improve day-to-day operations for the residents of Denton County.
Johnny W. Hammons
Occupation: Retired deputy constable
Prior political history: Ran unsuccessfully for Precinct 5 constable in 2008.
Background: Began a career in law enforcement in 1993 as a detention officer in the jail for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office; also served as bailiff in County Criminal Court No. 1 and as a transport deputy; served as deputy constable for Precinct 1 from 2003 to 2013; he and his wife have organized annual community drives to support local charities including Friends of the Family, Denton County Food Pantry, Our Daily Bread, Vision Ministries, Interfaith Ministries and Senior Paws (SPAN); member of Denton County Republican Assembly; and volunteers for many GOP events and candidates.
Top priorities for office: Ensure the mandated duties of the constable’s office are carried out effectively and timely by deputies to limit liabilities to taxpayers; reduce the backlog of Class C warrants; work diligently to locate defendants of protective orders in family violence cases and “deadbeat parents”involved in child support cases; institute a policy prohibiting the use of Denton County vehicles outside of county for off-duty work; work effectively with Denton County judges and commissioners; ensure that the rights of property owners and renters are protected; and return the constable’s office to the effective and respected office it once was.
Online: www.hammonsforconstable1.com; Facebook: Johnny Hammons for Constable Pct 1