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McCulloch County has a new Sheriff, John Stafford, the previous Sheriff's Chief Deputy. There was no election. It was just a simple Commissioner's Court meeting with some tricky parliamentary maneuvering.

Monday, August 25, 2014, the McCulloch County Commissioners Court accepted the resignation of Sheriff Earl Howell. Howell was re-elected Sheriff by a small margin in 2012. His resignation is timed too late for candidates to appear on the 2014 ballot. The Commissioner's court is required to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Sheriff Howell's term.

It is common practice in McCulloch County for officials to resign mid-term to influence the selection of their successor, who can then run as an incumbent in the next election.

The Commissioners had two applications for the job, John Stafford, Howell's Chief Deputy, and John Dagan who ran for Sheriff in 2012 but was defeated in the primary.

A motion was made to appoint John Stafford. County Judge Danny Neal and Commissioners Deeds and Ellison said they wanted more time to consider the appointment. They abstained from voting saying the would have a Special Meeting on Thursday (Aug 28). The motion carried by a vote of 2 to 0. On Thursday, there was no further discussion and the previous vote became binding. John Stafford is now Sheriff of McCulloch County.

I do not know John Stafford. As far as I know he has never held public office, although he is rumored to have extensive law enforcement experience. Election campaigns allow the public to see and hear the candidates, but appointments do not. He may be an excellent choice. I hope he serves McCulloch County with competence, honor and distinction.

But the whole process stinks - with or without parliamentary shenanigans. It reminds me of a passage in Stephen E. Ambrose's book "Citizen Soldier" about WWII:

The guys who were permanent jerks were the usual suspects -- officers with too much authority and too few brains, sergeants who had more than a touch of sadist in their characters, far too many quartermasters, some MPs. The types were many in number and widely varied in how they acted out their role, but the GIs had a single word that applied to every one of them: chickenshit.

Fussell defines the term precisely. "Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige... insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickenshit is so called -- instead of horse -- or bull -- or elephant shit -- because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously.


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