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County Gives Warm Send Off To Outgoing Officials

By Lynda Stringer - Tribune City Editor Tuesday, December 23, 2008 11:00 AM CST

Well-wishers packed Courtroom B at the Titus County Courthouse Annex Monday to say goodbye to four outgoing county officials. Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Fitch, County Attorney Tim Taylor, former Sheriff Arvel Shepard, who resigned his post Oct. 31, and Chief Deputy Miguel Larson received plaques from County Judge Sam Russell, who thanked them for their years of loyal service to the county. “It's been a great privilege to serve the citizens of Titus County,” Fitch said. “This is the best bunch of people in the world to work with.”

Fitch, who has served as commissioner for nine years, said getting things accomplished for the county has been a team effort. “I've never handled a problem by myself. If I've needed someone, they've always been there,” he said.

Fitch said he is most proud of the commissioner's court starting the Loop project. “That was a lot of hard work and I hope one day soon we'll see it come to realization,” he said. He is also proud of the improvements the county made to the courthouse.

"That was a lot of hard work and I hope one day soon we'll see it come to realization," he said. He is also proud of the improvements the county made to the courthouse.

Taylor, who is stepping down as county attorney after 24 years, was visibly emotional as he said his farewell to the crowd, expressing how much they have meant to him over the years. "Twenty-four years is a long time and a lot of memories. It's time to move on," he said.

Taylor, who is going into private law practice, said things have changed quite a bit since he started out as county attorney. "When I started it was easily a five- to six-hour a week job. Now it's a 35- to 40-hour a week job," he said. "The county attorney is supposed to be a part-time prosecutor, but it doesn't work that way."

Of incoming County Attorney John Mark Cobern, who has been working with his predecessor for the past few months, Taylor said he feels good about the transition. "The county, as far as I'm concerned, is in really good shape with John coming in. He is going to be exceptional. I don't feel bad at all leaving it with him," Taylor said.

Larson, who has served as chief deputy for nine years and was police chief in Lone Star for 13, joked that, being a former Daingerfield Tiger, he appreciated the fact that everyone treated him like a "hometown kid." Newly elected Sheriff Tim Ingram, who took office early when Shepard resigned, told Larson in July that he would not keep him on as chief deputy, a move that is typical when a new sheriff takes over. Shepard hired Larson in October of 1999.

"I was looking for something different when he called. There were some hurdles and we got through it," Larson said. Larson said the job and the experience has been a good one for him. "It's been fun. It is an exciting job, a very interesting job. You don't do the same thing everyday. Every day is a new challenge," Larson said.

He said much of the job is about service. "I found out over the years that a lot of what we did was not as much crime-related as it was service-oriented, just helping people out," he said.

On losing the job he loved, Larson said, "Things in life don't always go the way we want. Those plans are always in someone else's hands." He said he plans to continue working in the law enforcement field. "I am looking at possibly doing some private investigator work and I've received my certification from the Texas Supreme Court to serve civil papers as a private citizen," he said. "So, I'll still dabble in it somewhat, but certainly not on a full-time basis."

Shepard, who served two terms as sheriff and chose not to run for a third term, began his law enforcement career in 1958 as a highway patrol trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. He served in Houston, Tyler, Harlingen and his last 17 years with the DPS in Mount Pleasant, retiring in 1993. The county commissioners appointed him Titus County Sheriff in May of 1999. "I appreciate the opportunity to serve as sheriff here for nine and a half years," Shepard said. "I worked with a lot of great people in county government."

He said he would miss the people he worked with the most. "I will miss that relationship. I had a great group of employees. Miguel Larson was a great asset for the county. He was very helpful and knowledgeable about the operation and the laws." Shepard wished Ingram well, saying, "I believe the operation is working good now and he has some new ideas that will be good for the department."

Shepard said he is grateful to the public for allowing him to serve. "I really enjoyed working with the people and serving people and now I am going to enjoy retirement," he said.