The first thing you notice about Will Travis is how proud he is to be the Sheriff of Denton County. His smartly pressed uniform and military bearing is an image for all of his deputies to emulate.
Next, you discover that he does his homework and can enumerate a list of budget items; including how much they cost the county and how to get the best services to the residents for the lowest cost to the taxpayer. That’s no easy job, given that there are 602 employees, which include jailers, administrative staff and 179 peace officers. Keep in mind, all those budgetary items must be approved by the County Commissioners Court, which has a record of fiscal austerity.
According to Travis, the primary duty of the Sheriff’s Department is to be the “keeper of the jails.” Other responsibilities include, investigating crimes, making arrests, enforcing traffic regulations on county roads and maintaining security in both the county and district courts. Then there are civil and criminal processes to be served, such as subpoenas, warrants and writs of attachments.
With a $45 million budget that pays for all personnel, the county jail, 160 vehicles, pistols, shotguns, rifles and all administrative functions; over 900 square miles are patrolled and serviced every day. That includes three bodies of water in the county; Lake Lewisville, Lake Grapevine and Lake Ray Roberts. The Sheriff and his deputies patrol special district areas such as Lantana, which are not covered by town or city police.
With a career that includes police officer in Dallas, four years in the Coast Guard, security police officer in the Air Force and nine years with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Travis brings a wealth of experience to his role as chief law enforcer in the county.
One of his pet peeves is officers who don’t take pride in their appearance, especially when it comes to physical fitness. “I don’t like the image of overweight officers hanging around a donut shop,” he said. Since he took the oath in January he notes among his accomplishments that boating deaths have declined dramatically over past years, especially during major holidays, when the lakes are crowded with revelers.
Sheriff Travis came to my Flower Mound home for coffee and an interview on Thursday afternoon, giving me a chance to meet the guy who beat a popular two-term incumbent in last year’s GOP primary by running an independent campaign that didn’t receive support from what might be termed, the “party regulars.”
Although it’s not unprecedented, few people can be victorious over someone who is well-known by those who actively work for the party and, in many cases, have positions in elective or appointive offices. Actually, there’s nothing unusual about that. After all, if they know you and have worked with you during other campaigns, they’re more likely to work for you if you run for office.
So, how did Will Travis manage to upset the traditional party machine and get elected? The simple answer is that he ran a better campaign and worked harder for those votes than his opponent did. I know I didn’t vote for him. But, that’s because I had met the incumbent a few times in the past and had only met Travis once for about a minute during a local event.
Furthermore, since his election, I’ve only met him a couple of times at crowded meetings. That’s why I was eager to speak with him one on one. My impression is that he’s a decent, honest, totally dedicated public servant who sincerely wants to raise the standards of the Sheriff’s Office, continue to lower the crime rate, operate the county jail securely and efficiently, while making his department the envy of every other county.
Nevertheless, there’s an old saying; the higher up the ladder you go, the more of your rear end is exposed. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Travis is being investigated by the Texas Rangers for allegations that include persuading another opponent to drop out of the Sheriff’s race last year by offering him a job if he, Travis, was elected. Only time will tell if there’s any real substance to those contentions. In the meantime, Will Travis intends to continue doing the job the voters put him there to do.
Someone once said: the most cynical way to rob people of their vote is to destroy the person they elected. I know most of the Republican leaders in the county and I have the utmost respect for their integrity. If I didn’t, it would be easy to believe that this was an example of vindictive politics. Having spent some private time with Travis, it would stretch my imagination like salt water taffy to believe he could be guilty of improper conduct. One thing I’m certain of; I’d vote for him next time.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.