Runnels County sheriff Carl Squyers is quickly approaching 20-years on the job. There are many who may think that the sheriff spends most of his time flying paperwork behind his desk in his office, but in Runnels County, and other small counties in the state, the sheriff wears many hats. He’s a patrolman, detective, jailer, prisoner escort, manager, chief executive and the public information officer for his department. He takes part in the events around the county and has a strong public presence, especially when it comes to community policing.
Squyers has surrounded himself with quality people from his administrative assistant Tiffany Mathis, to his deputies, chief deputy Steven Gray, deputy Dawn Sumrall, deputy Clemente “Tito” Mata, jail administrator Kimberly Dunn, and the county dispatchers. There are currently 2 vacant deputy positions on the department. The jail has jail has a staff of 18 people with admin positions, a kitchen manager, 4 shift sergeants and 12 jailers. Carl says that it’s the work of those around him that make the job easier, “I’ve been fortunate in that I’m surrounded with really good people from my deputies to the dispatchers to Kimberly the jail staff.”
In 2018 Squyers had his annual Christmas toy drive for disadvantaged children in the county. He faced a challenge when a corporate sponsor backed out so he reached out to the community for help in collecting toys. The response was overwhelming and ultimately over 300 children received Christmas gifts. But when it comes to Squyers, he never talks about himself, only about the community response in helping out the children, “The people of Runnels County have big hearts and they always come through.”
The deputies he’s surrounded himself with have made some significant arrests in recent years. Last year Mata arrested a man who had committed several burglaries in the area and recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property. The sheriff’s department also conducted a joint 6-month operation with the Winters police department that resulted in a narcotics search warrant being executed at 806 N. 18th street in Ballinger, where they seized ½ lbs of methamphetamine, a stolen handgun, one set of ballistic body armor, marijuana, scales and packaging materials for the distribution of narcotics.
In September of 2017 Squyers and the sheriff’s department, along with the Miles police department, arrested Thomas Peiser for capital murder in Miles. During Peiser’s recent trial, Squyers himself was one of the sheriff department’s personnel who escorted Peiser to and from the jail for his trial and performed security outside of the courtroom with Mata and Dunn. Squyers was also called on to testify at least 3 times during the trial. Jail administrator Dunn and deputy Mata also escorted Peiser. Dunn says that Squyers has worked a great deal of patrol duty lately with only 3 deputies on the department, “People don’t see everything that he does. He fills in on patrol, he helps at the jail, he sits at home and listens to the radio and is always ready to jump out there and help someone or fill in where needed. He’s not a sheriff who might fill out one or two reports a month and leave all of the actual street-work to his deputies. He’s with them all of the way because he really, honestly cares about them. He writes tickets, he gets dispatched to 911 calls, he talks with people around the county about their concerns and he keeps everything from the jail to the sheriff department to the dispatchers running as smoothly as possible.”
On September 28th, Squyers himself and Dunn guarded a prisoner at the hospital due to a medical emergency. Then that night Squyers was watching the jail cameras with Dunn due to inmate misbehavior, “He does do a lot more than the public realizes,” Dunn says of the sheriff.
Recently, on September 5th, the Runnels County sheriff’s office captured a wanted and dangerous fugitive from San Angelo. The fugitive, Charles Dwinal, was wanted for dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and the unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The charges stemmed from an arrest in 2015 in which he was given probation. Dwinal’s probation was revoked for failing to perform his community service, using marijuana as well as methamphetamine and for not making his probation payments. Dwinal is now serving a 30-year sentence. But that was just another day in the life of Squyers and his department.
The most apparent trait that Squyers has is his calmness under pressure. He doesn’t get easily aggravated and he never takes out frustration on others. Squyers is always calm and deals with issues as they come up without overreacting. He has the confidence of a someone who has spent 20-years enforcing the law and capturing criminals and fugitives, a man who has seen a lot and done a lot.
The sheriff’s department will always come to the aid of other departments from the local police departments in Ballinger, Miles and Winters, to other sheriff’s departments. In September of 2018 the Runnels County Sheriff’s department assisted the Coleman County sheriff’s department in a drug sweep that saw 18 felons apprehended. It was a 4-month operation that required a significant amount of cooperation between the participating agencies.
On the salary side of things, Squyers’ salary ranks 15th worst in the state for the 58 Texas counties with a population of between 5,000 and 24,999. That puts him in the lower 25% of salaries for those 58 counties.
Some counties have salary supplements that increase the sheriff’s pay. Squyers doesn’t have salary adjustments. Limestone County, for instance, has a sheriff salary of $49,186 but a salary supplement of $24,000. Lee County has a sheriff salary of $48,206 with a salary supplement of $14,016. Two counties have car allowances for the sheriff and those are $9,000 for Sabine County and $12,000 for Ward County, respectively. These figures are found on the website county.org under 2018 salaries. The website has the salaries for every sheriff, judge, auditor, clerk and other officials in the state.
Squyers says that another little known fact about the sheriff’s department is that they don’t have overtime built in to their pay, “Our deputies don’t get overtime until they go over 171 hours in a month. That includes Squyers, “Every penny of the sheriff’s department budget is accounted for.”
Squyers doesn’t only oversee the budget for the sheriff’s office, he also oversees the jail budget and dispatching service budget. For the FY2020 year, the Jail budget is 1,218,604.42; the Sheriff department’s budget is 557,881.92; The dispatching service budget is 343,445.71. That is a combined budget of 2,219,932.05. And yet he still finds time to make street patrols.
On Friday, October 4th, Squyers came into the office and told chief deputy Steve Gray about a 911 call he had been dispatched to regarding a family disturbance and a firearm. The call was inside the city limits of Ballinger but that day, Ballinger police chief Stan Maresch was in San Antonio and Ballinger PD officer Suzanne Torres was giving a presentation at Buddy’s Plant Plus and so the sheriff’s office covered some calls in Ballinger. Even with only Squyers and 3 deputies on the department right now, they still provide quality law enforcement protection for all residents of the county and cover calls in the towns when local PD officers aren’t available.
The arrest statistics for the past year give a glimpse into the amount of work done by the Sheriff’s Department.
According to records received from the Runnels County Jail, there were 709 arrests in the past year. Of those, the Sheriff’s office arrested 181 offenders, Winters PD arrested 161, Ballinger PD arrested 116, DPS arrested 65 and Miles PD arrested 4. The Texas Rangers arrested 2 offenders and TPWD game wardens arrested 2 offenders. There were 91 people who had warrants who turned themselves in at the jail. With fewer law enforcement officers (about ½ the officers of Ballinger PD) and a 1,057 square mile area to cover, Squyers and his deputies arrested more people (181) than Ballinger (116). Ballinger’s square mile area that the police department covers is 3.4 square miles but the population is obviously more dense than areas of the county.
Winters PD fell 20 offenders short of Runnels County with those 161 arrests, which was 45 arrests more than Ballinger.
The purpose of the stats is not to cast aspersions on or denigrate other law enforcement agencies, it’s to point out the amount of work that a sheriff and 3 deputies perform on a daily bases. Squyers says that the department is looking to hire 2 deputies to fill the vacancies and bring the sheriff’s office back up to normal strength.
Squyers and his deputies have good working relationships with some of the police chiefs and officers in the towns around the county, and they’re always looking to foster good will by helping out any agency that requires help.
While the sheriff’s department might be understrength, and some would say that the sheriff and deputies are underpaid, they’re still providing top quality law enforcement service to the people of the county, whether residents live in a town or in the county.