The Victoria County Sheriff’s Office needs to return to its old family values, sheriff candidate Phillip Dennis said.
Dennis, who graduated from Victoria High School in 1984, is running as a Republican. He said the sheriff’s office has lost its family angle that makes the community feel comfortable interacting with deputies. Before, he said single moms would bring their kids to the sheriff’s office after school, where deputies would help them with their homework. The father of five said his children with his ex-wife grew up feeling comfortable around law enforcement because of that family connection.
Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor was recently nominated by President Donald Trump to be U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Texas.
Dennis is the second Republican to announce a bid to become Victoria County sheriff in the 2020 election. Victoria police detective Melissa Rendon-Wasicek, a 24-year veteran in law enforcement, announced her candidacy in early September.
The loss of family connection can be traced to how the sheriff’s office is managed, Dennis said. He said the department is run too much like a business, which is why Dennis said his first priority as sheriff would be to rebuild the agency’s foundation. This involves refilling understaffed roles, such as jailers, he said.
But Dennis said he doesn’t just want to hire people as jailers; he said he wants to train them across multiple areas, which mirrors his own career. Dennis said he gained experience in the detention system and on the SWAT unit, among other areas, before he retired as a captain from the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office in 2015. He ended his retirement to work in the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office as “a jack of all trades.”
“I realized law enforcement is my heart and got back in,” Dennis said.
Dennis said the loss of family values also lured him out of retirement. He said he feels it’s his duty to help rebuild the agency that made him. This involves trimming the number of commanding officers and “frivolous spending.”
“It looks good on a website,” he said, “But how does it look in a crisis?”
Although he’s running for office, Dennis said he considers himself a man of the people, not a politician. He said he values working in the jail because it allowed him to connect with the inmates as people. One former inmate, he said, still hugs him whenever he sees him the Victoria community – a community Dennis said he cherishes.
“There’s no place like Victoria,” Dennis said. “There’s no place like my community.”