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Change brings some caution

The Denton County Sheriff’s Department is undergoing some changes now with new management after voters elected Will Travis into office last May.

And with a new administration, changes are an understood part of doing business. Sheriff Travis quickly decided a new look was in order, seeking to change uniforms, badges and logos on the department’s vehicles. And after answering a series of questions and telephone calls, he has outlined that his plans are within his estimated $44 million 2012-13 fiscal year budget and will be implemented over a period of time as that same budget allows.

Travis says the changes are part of his strategy to show a more professional, up-to-date department in the day-to-day business of dealing with the public and in overall court appearances.

In his first few days of office, rumors flew quickly of fired personnel and numerous interdepartmental changes. But on closer inspection amid several inquiries, we found that the new sheriff in town has brought in few new hires and has already offered promotions to several existing employees. And with some retirements with the outgoing sheriff, he has let go of fewer people than some past administrations.

The two new hires — Rex George, an investigator from the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, and Randy Plemons of the McLennan County’s Sheriff’s Office — are both longtime career peace officers who will bring a lot of knowledge and skills with them to the sheriff’s department.

In a meeting with 350 of his estimated 586 total employees, Travis said he told them about opportunities for growth within the department. He also offered a $200 prize for the person who developed a new look for the department’s patch within the next couple of weeks.

Change always meets with resistance. It is inherent in our human nature not to want change. But sometimes changes can spur forward movement and a new outlook on how things are done.

Travis indicated as much in his interviews with our staff.

However, true change goes deeper than a new uniform or logo. To be effective, it needs to be system-wide with a purpose in mind and not just for change’s sake. It can also be just as effective to recognize where change is not needed.

We would caution the newly elected sheriff to watch his budget closely as he makes these and more changes in the future. Taxpayers are watching their own budgets closely in these fiscally challenging times and they expect the same of those they elect.

And with that in mind, we wish him only the best going forward.