Voices of County Government - Hon. Ray Scifres

By County magazine

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How long have you been the Hockley County Sheriff?

I took office on Jan. 1, 2017, so we just passed the two-year mark. I cannot believe how fast time is going! 

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

I was the investigator for the Yoakum County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.  It was a fantastic environment, so leaving brought mixed emotions. The people I worked with were amazing, and I do miss them.

Running for office was something I did not think I would do. However, I strongly felt called to seek the position of sheriff and I wanted to make a difference. I believed I could bring new ideas and a new direction to the office, help build relationships with other county and municipal offices, and work toward improving public safety in our county through those partnerships. It is truly a team effort, and we have an amazing staff. Running for office would not have been possible without the support of my wife and family. I am blessed beyond measure and love what I do each and every day. 

What was the biggest surprise or adjustment after taking office? 

Something that was a surprise to me was just how involved the sheriff must be in the jail, as well as how large the issue of mental health among detainees has become. We have an excellent jail administrator who knows how to effectively operate our jail, but as sheriff I am ultimately responsible, so I have really worked with him to understand the dynamics of jail operations and inmate management. 

Another area that I have worked at learning and that has become an area of focus is the problem of mental illness among jail populations. We are working locally to find resources, as well as at the state level by speaking with our representation in Austin about how we can tackle this issue.

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

One of the areas of concern typically involves finances. We need to be good stewards with what we have been blessed with, and we work daily to responsibly use money within our budgets. This can at times be a challenge because equipment needs to be replaced. Vehicles and facilities need repair from wear and tear. We have worked to strengthen relationships with our commissioners and our judge to keep them informed of our needs and how we operate within our budgets. Some advice related to budgets would have to be this: be open and communicate with others within county government.    

Another challenge is addressing liability. In law enforcement there is always liability, but we can work to mitigate it. The TAC Risk Management Services group and Law Enforcement Consultants have been amazing resources for us.  From model policies to training, we are better equipped to tackle issues due to their assistance.

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

Something we have been working on has been our overcrowded jail. Like other counties, this has been a problem. We understood that any solution to fixing the issue needs a team approach. Last year, after working with a local police chief, we formed an advisory committee in our county with members from prosecution, probation, defense attorneys and other local stakeholders to analyze our local justice system. The goals are to make our system more effective and efficient, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety. The best way to do that is to look at each element of our system and their roles, and see how we can improve our individual areas to better the system and better serve our communities. This took a while to get off the ground, and we are now up and running.

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

Like many others, social media has been huge for us. We have utilized Facebook for a few years and have recently started using Nextdoor. We balance crime information, wanted individuals, community alerts and “just for fun” posts that seem to be working. We reach a large audience on social media.  

We also have a great relationship with the local news and print media. We are transparent and open to speak with them. They contact us when they have story ideas, and they share needed information we want to get out quickly. Open communication and transparency have been areas of focus for our office.

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

Actually, we stay quite busy around our house! My wife and I have three daughters, ages 17, 13 and 8, who keep us running. Each is involved in athletics including volleyball and basketball, and my youngest daughter is a tumbling and trampoline gymnast who is already a state, regional and national champion. I am a graduate student at Lamar University (Go Cards!) and will complete my Master of Science in criminal justice in May 2019 before entering a doctoral program in the near future. Something my colleagues would be surprised about is that I studied ministry and the Bible at Lubbock Christian University, and I can read and translate biblical Greek.

What is your favorite thing about Hockley  County?

 Hands down, it would have to be the people. We have an amazing Hockley County family. The communities in our county are supportive of law enforcement, but more importantly, they are supportive of each other. It is heartwarming to see how our communities do for each other. This is truly a family. The best people on the planet.