Voices of County Government - Sheriff Robert Chody

By County magazine

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How long have you been the Williamson County Sheriff?

This is my first term, so I am at the year-and-a-half mark right now. The plan today is to run again. 

Prior to your election, what kind of work did you do? What got you interested in running for office?

Before I ran for sheriff, I was an elected constable in Williamson County for two terms. Prior to that, I worked for the Austin Police Department. I gained interest in running for sheriff after my first year as constable. I saw a need for leadership, and I saw the effectiveness of what we were doing in the constable’s office. I saw a need where I could help effect change on
a larger scale to impact the
community better. 

What was the biggest surprise or adjustment after taking office? 

In the constable’s office, we used technology a lot, but it was not as utilized in the sheriff’s office when we came in. There was no cold case unit, but there are cold cases.  So, we started a cold case unit and began using technology more. It was a bit of an adjustment for the staff, but it has been working really well.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and what advice would you give your peers across the state that may face the same or similar challenges?

Some of the biggest challenges were that we replaced an administration that had been there for 12 years. The employees are great. But the administration didn’t utilize the same platforms we are — like social media. They also didn’t have such a great relationship with the community. Now we use these tools, which have helped us develop a great relationship with the community. 

Another challenge was earning the trust of our employees, by establishing things like a fair promotion process. Now, instead of just picking people I know and like, everyone must pass specific tests and go through a streamlined process. We’ve seen a boost in morale because of these changes. 

Changing a culture after 12 years is difficult. My advice for those in similar situations is to be transparent with what your intent is, and deliver a consistent message to all the stakeholders — both inside and outside the courthouse.

Since taking office, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

There are so many that I’m going to have a hard time picking just one. We’ve done a lot of great things with our new cold case unit. We have over a dozen cold cases here in Williamson County that have been somewhat ignored, and the families were left out of any communication. 

We created a unit by recruiting retired investigators in the area who all work for free. They all have a ton of experience, including a former Department of Defense worker, a retired Los Angeles County detective and a retired federal agent. We now have 24 reserved investigators working for free. We can now communicate with the families who have expressed their gratitude for the renewed interest in their cold cases.

What do you find are the most successful methods for reaching out to the residents of your county to communicate what your office is doing and why it’s doing it?

By far social media platforms — hands down. Facebook, Twitter, and even NextDoor have all been extremely important tools. Each platform provides something different. We’re also building a strong partnership with the media. Despite our proximity (to Austin) there was no prior relationship with the Austin media. We’re fixing that.

One fun thing we do on social media to engage residents is showcasing our growing K-9 unit. We do skits with the dogs to entertain and educate the public. We have eight great dogs, with one new bomb/bite dog. We had a naming contest for him on social media, which was a big hit and landed him the name Fuse. Because, you know, he’s a bomb dog.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing? Do have any hobbies or something interesting that may surprise your colleagues?

I have four children — one adult who has moved out and three still at home. I’m a real dance dad and very active with one of my daughters, which may surprise some folks. I also have a very weird sense of humor. I try and be funny when appropriate. That’s just who I am.

What is your favorite thing about Williamson  County?

 Obviously, the community and the people. The quality of employees we have is amazing. They’ve been a hidden secret. I also love all the trails in the park — there are some very beautiful parks in the area.