Smith County Sheriff Candidate Profile: Donn Rust - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Smith County Sheriff Candidate Profile: Donn Rust

Smith County Sheriff Candidate Donn Rust. (Source: Donn Rust) Smith County Sheriff Candidate Donn Rust. (Source: Donn Rust)

Each of the four Smith County Sheriff Candidates were given a questionnaire comprised of questions that were developed in large-part by members of our audience.

A while back, followers of the KLTV Facebook page were asked what question they'd ask the Smith County Sheriff Candidates themselves, if given the chance.

These questions, in conjunction with hot-button items developed by members of the KLTV staff, are listed below, with the candidate's responses (denoted by italics) immediately following.



1. Technology is constantly changing and advancing; what technological advances would you like to introduce to the Smith County Sheriff's Department?

First I would implement the use of less than lethal Tasers. We have systems like Able Term that are adequate for our needs in these tight financial times. The problem is the delivery system is faulty and we have interruptions in service. Before I make suggestions I will review the technology in other Sheriff Departments and pick the most advanced system that would give Smith County the best return on its investment.

2. What are immediate changes, say in your first 90 days in office, that you'd like to make if elected?

My immediate changes will be a $20.00 book-in fee. The book-in fee will generate $240,000.00 a year. We would use that money to increase patrol for the safety and security of the citizens living in the county. Second, we will build a website and post the Sheriff's Department true expenses. It will be a website easy to read so tax payers know where and how their money is being spent. Third, the Veterans Administration will be welcomed by my administration to help pay for medical care, mental care and medicines needed for incarcerated veterans. Fourth, I will put in place my plan to reduce deputy turn over. It costs Smith County over $700,000.00 a year to train and replace experienced deputies. Fifth, my staff will focus on the $2,000,000.00 Jail commissary and why we pay an outside company to run it. My plan is to run it and utilize the extra profit to reduce the tax burden of the jail.

3. We asked people on our social media sites what they would like to ask you as a candidate for Sheriff; one of the things that came up several times was the issue of response time, especially for people who live in the far northern reaches of the county. For example, one man alleges that he called in a possible shooting and the response time was over an hour, according to him. What will be done to assure residents on the perimeter of Smith County that they will receive prompt, consistent law enforcement protection from the Sheriff's office?

As a businessman I understand it costs money to increase service. My $20.00 book-in fee is designed to pay for the extra cost of deputies and equipment to furnish prompt, consistent law enforcement demanded by the citizens of Smith County. Non-paid deputies will also help with our citizens' safety and security. They will help reduce our response times because deputies will not have to wait for backup.

4. What approach will you use as Sheriff to hold your employees accountable to the policies and laws of the county and state?

We will screen, test, and interview all new hires so we pick the best possible employee. We will spend all the money the County Commissioners give us so we can instruct or deputies on the laws and policies of the county and state. One of our priorities will be customer service and I will rely on my management team to lead by example and supervise and work with all our deputies to reach our goal.

5. Sheriff Smith, as you know, has served Smith County as sheriff for more than 30 years. Do you feel that is too long to serve? If so, how long should you, as sheriff, serve?

I personally feel it's too long. It's important to remember the voters decided our current Sheriff was more qualified to keep them safe than 30 years of his opponents he ran against. For me two terms is enough. I tend to work long hours.

6. Sheriff Smith has long served as the gatekeeper of public information for the office. What would you do to enhance communication with local media entities and, by extension, the public you serve? Would you assign a deputy as a full-time Public Information official?

I will not assign a full-time public information officer for the first two years. With the changes we are bringing to the Sheriff's Department questions from the public and media need to be answered by the one in charge. Media will have more access to the inmates. I have a proven track record of being very accessible and open to the public and the media.

7. What will happen to the current staff if you are elected Sheriff? Will there be sweeping changes, or will you retain people in leadership?

There will not be sweeping changes to the current management staff. It is important to note that most of the current management has more than enough years of service to retire. I will wait to see who retires and fill those positions first. I believe Smith County Deputies are an asset not a liability and look forward to working with them.

8. Many people in our jail today are there for some drug-related offense. Do you feel that current court-supervised treatments for drug offenders are successful in reducing costs and crime rate related to drug-related offenses? What would you do to improve this, if anything?

Misused legal drugs or illegal drugs are a growing problem. Court-supervised treatments certainly do help but drug offenders have to want to stop. I see them after three weeks clean in jail and say they can't wait to get high. I have a plan to pay for more patrol deputies to protect your safety and property against them. I will bring God back to the jail and that may help too. The sad facts are with budget restraints the system will stay overwhelmed but we will keep trying to help them.

9. Another Smith County resident shared this question on social media: will you consider housing federal inmates or inmates from other counties in the new jail as added income for Smith County?

Yes I will consider housing federal and other counties inmates. All options to reduce the tax burden on Smith County tax payers will be considered. 

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