Gonzales Fire Chief Keith Schmidt was appointed the new Gonzales County sheriff during a special called commissioners court meeting Thursday, Sept. 16, at the Courthouse.
Schmidt will succeed the late Sheriff Robert Ynclan, who passed away at the age of 63 on Sept. 5 after battling COVID-19. Schmidt’s appointment was by unanimous vote of the court and his duties are to begin “effective immediately,” County Judge Pat Davis said.
Davis said Schmidt must complete the paperwork for his bond and then must be officially sworn in once the bond is signed.
“We’re here to assist you in any way we can as a commissioners court,” Davis told Schmidt. “We are like one big family here in Gonzales County. The Gonzales County family is a great family and we know you will do a great job.”
Schmidt said he knows he will be stepping into some big shoes, literally, as he seeks to succeed Ynclan, a gentle giant of a man who served more than three decades as a DPS trooper before being elected sheriff last year.
“We are all still mourning the loss of our sheriff,” Schmidt said. “Robert Ynclan was a great man and a good friend of mine and others. This COVID seems to have no mercy over who it takes these days.
“These are mighty big shoes for me to try to fill, but I will work real hard for this county to see if we can try to keep our sheriff’s office going and try to make some changes and improvements. There is a lot of work to do.”
Schmidt said he hopes to “be able to keep things as they are” for now as he begins the process of interviewing existing employees.
“It’s a pretty common practice that when a new sheriff comes in, everyone reapplies and that will give me a chance to meet them and talk to them,” Schmidt said. “Our expectation is that a lot of those folks will continue to do something very similar to what they are doing today.”
Schmidt was very complimentary of the job that has been performed by the men and women who will now serve under him.
“I’ve worked really close with the sheriff’s office for years,” Schmidt said. “Those guys put their hearts and souls into it and they’re great for our community and they do really hard work. I’m excited to get to work with them. They have a great group of people up there who give 110 percent.”
Schmidt was one of six applicants overall for the position and one of four finalists who were interviewed Thursday by commissioners during a two-hour closed executive session. The others were former Chief Deputy Clay Allen, former Chief Deputy Lynn Wilburn and former GCSO deputy and Nixon police chief Floyd Tolliver, who ran for sheriff last year but was defeated by Ynclan in the general election.
Two other candidates — current Chief Deputy Chris Aviles and Danielle Pratt — both applied to be considered for the position as well, but both were disqualified because they did not meet all of the conditions for office under Texas Elections Code Section 141.001, which states in order to be elected or appointed, a candidate must have “resided continuously in the state for 12 months in the territory for which the office is.”
“On behalf of myself and the court, we want to thank each and every applicant who put their application in to be Gonzales County Sheriff. We greatly appreciate it and it means a lot to each one of us,” Davis said. “It was a tough decision. In this interview process that we had, the candidates that we had — everybody was awesome.”