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DeWitt jail captain honored for community service

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
April 4, 2011 at 5 p.m.
Updated April 3, 2011 at 11:04 p.m.

Crystal Irvin, 37, captain at the DeWitt County Detention Center, recently won a state award for public service.  Irwin, along with other members of the DeWitt County Sheriff's Employee Association, have raised funds for scholarships, Deputy Santa and other efforts in the community.

Crystal Irvin always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

The jail captain in the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office, 37, has worked on the correctional side of law enforcement for more than 17 years.

"I went to work at the prison in Cuero right out of high school," said Irvin, a 1992 graduate of Cuero High School.

She credits her mother, former Cuero city councilwoman Shirley Riemenschneider, as being an influence on her career choice.

"My mother worked in the field and ever since I was young, I wanted to be a peace officer," Irvin said. "I got hired by the prison and liked it."

Riemenschneider, who spent more than 10 years with the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office as a dispatcher, jailer and deputy, sometimes took her teenaged daughter with her when transporting prisoners.

"We signed the waiver that allowed her to ride along," Riemenschneider said. "She was around my work a lot, and it fascinated her."

Riemenschneider said she never pushed her daughter to follow in her footsteps.

"I just told her, whatever you do, do it 110 percent," she said. "Don't be there just to collect a paycheck. Prove yourself."

And Irvin has done just that.

Overseeing administration of the 116-bed DeWitt County Detention Center since August 2009, Irvin has been honored with a state award for public service.

The award comes from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, the state licensing agency for law enforcement officers.

Irvin, who supervises a jail staff of 25, deflected credit for the award.

"This isn't all done by me. It's a team effort, just like running the jail is," she said. "Without them, it wouldn't happen. It takes all of us."

The "us" Irvin is referring to are members of the DeWitt County Sheriff's Employees Association.

The fundraising started with a softball tournament to raise money for a scholarship for a high school senior going into a career in law enforcement.

"We did very well," Irvin said. "We raised more than $3,000."

The group decided it could help out more than just the scholarship and progressed to different things, explained the captain.

The association organized a Fans for Friends drive during the summer, collecting fans for the elderly and families with small children and matching those donations.

It also received donations and handed out more than 25 backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children in DeWitt County schools.

An ongoing project is Taco Tuesday, during which group members make tacos and fill orders from schools, banks, hotels and other businesses and individuals.

"Employees volunteer their time. We get up early and make tacos and deliver them," Irvin said. "We split those funds between the association and Deputy Santa."

Noting that the association's assistance runs the gamut from children to senior citizens, Irvin said, "We try to help as many people as we can. If we see something out there that catches our eye, we try to donate to it."

The group also sponsored a volleyball tournament and a Badge and Patch Swap Show.

Irvin's honor came as a surprise to her.

"I was shocked," she said. "I didn't even know the sheriff had nominated me."

DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky said that Irvin is deserving of the award.

"I am so proud that Crystal's dedication to our community has been recognized by the commission's board members," said the sheriff. "Her work ethics are unmatched and she truly leads her staff by example."

Irvin will travel to Austin with her family to collect the award on June 3.

And, of course, mom is on the guest list.



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