Richard Gillette chosen as Midland County's acting sheriff despite public pushback

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MIDLAND, Tx. (KOSA) - Weeks after the death of Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, the county has an acting sheriff to take his place.

However, it wasn’t the man many had recommended to the Midland County Commissioners Court.

A vocal crowd jeered as commissioners Scott Ramsey, Robin Donnelley and Randy Prude all voted to make Gillette acting sheriff.

Minutes earlier, a dozen people gave passionate speeches urging the commissioners to empower McKinney, Painter’s longtime right-hand man at the sheriff’s department.

“Ramsey, Donnelley and Prude, you have spit in the faces of this county as well as our entire sheriff’s department by rejecting their deputy chief,” Judy Farris said during the meeting. “The very man Gary chose to lead this department in the event of his absence.”

“I’m angry,” Michelle Morris told the commissioners. “I’m angry you heard the will of the people in this county at the previous meeting and three of you decided your opinion counted more than the people who elected you.”

Among those who spoke up includes Jennifer Painter, the former sheriff’s daughter.

“Chief Deputy McKinney is his choice to be second in command,” Painter said. “He is his choice to run the sheriff’s office if anything happened. But yes, my father would be extremely disappointed.”

However, Prude, who nominated Gillette, said despite the protests his nominee is best because he won’t seek re-election and other candidates would then have a more equal chance to run in 2020.

“I listened carefully to what they said, and I still believe it should be in the hands of the voters,” Prude said. “So, that’s what happened this morning.”

Gillette worked for the sheriff’s office for decades under Painter before moving on to the district attorney’s office.

He said he isn’t planning on making any drastic changes in the year and a half he’ll serve before retirement and will always look to Painter’s teachings for guidance.

“He was my friend and mentor for 34 years probably and I thought the world of him,” Gillette said. “I’m just going to think every day what Sheriff Painter would do and that’s what I’ll try to do.”

McKinney said he’s disappointed the commissioners didn’t make him acting sheriff, but also said Gillette is a great man who he will be happy to work with for the rest of the term.

“He’ll help the community and he’ll do whatever the employees with of him to do,” McKinney said. ‘He’ll go to bat for the employees and he’ll go to bat for the citizens of Midland.”

Of course, his enthusiasm wasn’t universal.

“Elections are coming up gentlemen,” Morris called to the commissioners after the vote. “You’ll be hearing from us again.”

Gillette will serve as acting sheriff for the next year and a half until a new sheriff is chosen in the 2020 election.