Jail promotions propel new era for McLennan County

The McLennan County Sheriff's Office promoted seven employees Thursday ahead of the Jack...
The McLennan County Sheriff's Office promoted seven employees Thursday ahead of the Jack Harwell Detention Center takeover in October. (Courtesy photo)(KWTX)
Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 12:06 AM CDT
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Promotions are pretty much always good things, but there's even greater meaning to several happening at the McLennan County Sheriff's Office.

The agency's command staff grew Thursday during a promotions ceremony at MCSO's headquarters in downtown Waco.

Sheriff Parnell McNamara says it's a new era for the agency tapped to takeover, and take back, the privately-run Jack Harwell Detention Center this Fall.

"It's a new day for the Sheriff's Office, and the jail, and the county," said McNamara.

On Oct. 1, the county will take control of Jack Harwell, but in order to do so, more resources, jailers, and leaders are needed to be able to run both facilities...hence, the promotions.

"We were given our badges, and our bars, and here we are," said Capt. Karen Anderson.

Anderson was one of seven jail employees promoted Thursday: five lieutenants and two captains.

Joel Barrientos, David Ives, John Phillips, Sue Tweedle and Casey Boehme were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant; Anderson and her counterpart Mike Garrett were promoted to the rank of Captain.

Coming full circle, as a Captain, Anderson will now be in charge of the same place she started working at as a jailer back in 1994.

"This is where I belong, I'm very excited," said Anderson. "I thought the highest rank I'd ever get was sergeant."

Anderson will be the first female ever to run a jail for the Sheriff's Office.

"To me it's not a male or a female thing, I feel like I've worked hard to be where I'm at," said Anderson. "We have a great team here, it's like a huge family, I want to continue that, I want to build a better team than we already have."

The mother of a nine-year-old daughter had a message for young girls out there.

"You can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it, work hard, prove yourself, and you can do it," said Armstrong.

Jail Administrator, Capt. Ricky Armstrong, says her promotion is well deserved.

"I remember when she started, she worked for me as a sergeant, she was a good employee then, and now she does a wonderful job for us in maintaining our policies and procedures and contracts," said Armstrong. "We're stepping into a whole new facility, taking on more officers, and with that comes more responsibilities for everybody."

According to Armstrong, Anderson will run the county jail and Garrett will run Jack Harwell, however, the captains will report to him as he oversees both facilities under the new title of major.

"I'm still the jail administrator so it's a new title, it just means more responsibility," said Armstrong. "I suggested the structure of the jail, not necessarily my position--that was totally up to the Sheriff, it's a very big honor."

County commissioner's recently approved the new organizational structure through a budget amendment, adding additional positions MCSO officials determined were essential in doubling their facilities, inmates, and workload.

"We've grown and we're taking on more staff and just the different rank structure," said Armstrong. "So we asked for that and commissioner's granted that so command staff can go ahead and start working on the projects they need to work on, the shift schedules, the training of the officers, ya know, which officers are going to go to which facility, and there's just a whole lot to work on."

While taking on a second jail is a tall order, Armstrong says he's more confident going into this new era for the agency with his new leadership team by his side.

"(I'm) Just excited for the future and to work with all the new command staff and all the new sergeants and corporals that have also been promoted, just looking forward to it," said Armstrong. "Even though our command staff has a lot of experience, my goal for them is to continue to learn."

The promotions officially went into effect on Sunday, however, Armstrong won't technically be promoted to major until Jack Harwell goes back under country control Oct. 1.