Runnels County Chief Deputy Steve Gray retiring

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
(L - R) Runnels County deputy Clemente "Tito" Mata, Sheriff Carl Squyres and Chief Deputy Steve Gray participate in National Night Out in 2018. Gray is retiring after almost 46 years in law enforcement.

Runnels County Chief Deputy Steve Gray started his law enforcement career in Ballinger when he was hired as a patrol office on December 21, 1974. Gray’s law enforcement career took him from Ballinger to San Angelo and back to Ballinger, retiring from the Ballinger PD in 2008. After serving the people of Ballinger for almost 3 decades, Gray went to the Runnels County Sheriff’s Office. Gray will retire from the Runnels County Sheriff Department on July 31st after almost 46 years on the job.

Regardless of where you spend your career, you’re going to see changes if you spend over 4 decades working in any career field. Gray commented on what he says are the 2 biggest changes in law enforcement, “Technology and people. The technology has improved, especially in the area of officer safety. And there are a lot of good people in Runnels County.” Gray says that he remains steadfast in one aspect, “My view hasn’t changed.”

Gray’s impact and legacy extend well beyond the Runnels County Sheriff’s Department and the Ballinger Police Department, due in-part to the myriad of grants he’s written over the years. One grant in particular benefited all of the law enforcement agencies in the county, “I wrote a grant for some rifle vests (protection from bullets fired from rifles). When I was looking into the grant, I thought that we should include all of the agencies in the county. I talked to the county judge and he was able to help make it so that every officer in the county received a rifle vest.”

Gray’s grant writing has included grants for CopSynch as well as radio grants, computer upgrade grants, patrol grants, patrol vehicles, a National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) grant for the jail, and more. Gray’s dedication, his work on the streets, investigations, supervising and training of other deputies and behind the scenes efforts have provided a high quality of police work throughout the Sheriff’s Department and jail.

Runnels County Sheriff Carl Squyres was asked how he was going to replace Gray, “You can’t replace him. It’s not possible. Steve has more knowledge and experience in his thumb than the rest of us combined. He’s going to be dearly missed. When I took office he became chief deputy. Steve has had a hand in training all of our deputies. He’s also an incredible investigator and he’ll never be replaced.” Squyres was a sergeant for the sheriff’s department and worked alongside Gray for 8 years before being elected sheriff in 2016.

Even though Gray will be retiring, he won’t be hanging up his badge for good, “I hope to continue as a reserve deputy.” This comment elicits a quick response from Squyres, “Absolutely.” Gray will also be catching up around home, “I’ve got a lot of stuff to do at my house, projects that I’ve been putting off or haven’t had time to do.”

Gray’s view that hasn’t changed revolves around 2 important characteristics, “I’ve started off with the same speech with every officer that I’ve ever trained; Honesty and integrity. Those are the main 2 things in police work. People are our customers and we want to take care of our customers, even if it’s a civil problem and not a criminal problem. We want to help. We’re not going to tell someone, ’Well, that’s a civil problem, and not our job’ and then get in our vehicle and leave. That’s not how you take care of people. Even in my first 2 years of police work I followed up on cases. I always wanted to see them through.”

With the current situation in the country with protests and talk of defunding police, Gray was asked how he feels the attitude overall has changed, “It’s a generation thing. My generation and people close to my generation are good people. The younger generation doesn’t have respect for themselves, much less anyone else.” Gray said that most of the time they’re dealing with people in tough situations, “When we deal with good people, it’s because something bad has happened. We’ve got so many good people and you have to treat everyone equally.”

Gray spoke about his career, “My whole career has basically been here in Ballinger and Runnels County. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. It’s been my job and my pleasure to take care of people. Taking care of everyone is our responsibility and we’ve done it the best the we could. We kept abreast of changes and adapted. We went from handwriting reports to an Underwood typewriter, to a word processor to computers. We’ve continued to upgrade and attempted to stay up-to-date in every area of our job.”

Gray isn’t leaving quietly. On Tuesday, July 21, dispatch received several calls about a car running other cars off the road on Highway 83. Gray and deputy Tito Clemente’ stopped the vehicle and the man driving had a warrant out for a parole violation, “He had been convicted of murder, assault, etc. He also had methamphetamine in his possession. He’d been hiding out in San Angelo.”

While filling Gray’s shoes will not be easy, he continues to look to the department’s future, “When I decided to retire over a year ago, I started breaking Tito (Mata) in and teaching him what I do. We sent him to supervisor classes and to field training officer classes. I’ve been going over the programs that I use and getting things changed over to him as I teach him my job. Taking care of the officers that work for me has been my main job.”

Gray’s last day of work will be July 24 and his retirement will begin on July 31.

We at the Runnels County Register want to wish Chief Deputy Gray a long, happy and rewarding retirement. We want to sincerely appreciate his 4.5 decades of service to the people of Runnels County.