Victoria County chief deputy sworn in (video)
Sept. 16, 2013 at 4:16 a.m.
Updated Sept. 17, 2013 at 4:17 a.m.
Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor carefully pinned a badge on a man he hopes will continue his office's success.
Rope outlines the five points of a star on the badge to pay homage to the region's history, O'Connor said.
"We're not all cowboys, but we do cowboy up and go after the bad guys," O'Connor said.
O'Connor swore in Jeffrey L. Wendling as his new chief deputy Monday and simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief.
"It's been a very long and, I'd say, treacherous 10 months," O'Connor said.
Previous chief deputy Terry Simons died of a heart attack Nov. 7.
But O'Connor believes Wendling is a good fit. He not only has 44 years of law enforcement experience but also specializes in counter drug and counterintelligence.
"I've already started working out so I can be one or two steps ahead of him," O'Connor said of how the two men will race to the door to respond to emergencies.
Wendling, 65, is already reviewing organizational charts and advocating for salary increases for sergeants, lieutenants, captains, chief deputy and sheriff.
While the sheriff office's starting salaries for deputies are on par with the police department, its higher positions earn anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 less than they would at the police department, he said.
That's because deputies are not paid extra for earning higher degrees or certifications, which is a common practice. The extra pay will help the office recruit and retain talented deputies, Wendling said.
"We need to tell the people of Victoria County just how important we are to their lives, to their quality of life," Wendling said. "Sometimes, we may seem like just part of the landscape until they need us."
He thought the commissioners understood that and was thankful for what the court already approved for the sheriff's office in this year's budget.
The sheriff is paid $83,224, and the chief deputy is paid $72,260, according to the 2014 county budget.
Wendling also wants to ensure the office has enough deputies to answer every call in the office's about 850-square-mile service area. While he admires O'Connor's efforts to combat cybercrime, cybercrimes will likely be placed under the special crimes unit's umbrella as Wendling ascertains what resources are available.
"O'Connor's got a global view and thinks outside of the box. That's what it's all about," Wendling said. "There is nothing broken here."
Wendling is a native of Dallas and is married to Freya M. Halili, of San Juan, Batangas Province, Philippines. The Wendlings have one son, Michael, a 38-year-old information technology director for a multinational pharmaceutical company.