The new year brings in new leadership in Williamson County. District Attorney Shawn Dick and Sheriff Robert Chody were officially sworn in Monday.
Before their families and Williamson County officials, former Austin police officer and county constable Robert Chody became sheriff and attorney Shawn Dick became the new district attorney.
Dick perhaps has the most difficult transition ahead as his predecessor Jana Duty was sanctioned by the state bar for misconduct prompting a call for her resignation.
"So we want to restore professionalism, experience and integrity,” said Dick.
He says change begins with staff. He will hire three new attorneys to form an intake division.
"We'll be able to screen cases and fully communicate with law enforcement and work together on cases to make our cases stronger and better and to make sure we don't file unnecessary cases,” he said.
Dick says last year out of the 3,000 cases filed, 40 percent wound up in dismissals. He hopes by having attorneys available to directly consult with law enforcement, he can bring that number down significantly.
He also has a goal to handle cases in the courts within a year. Right now some have been on the docket for three years.
On a more personal note, Dick's father once served as district attorney in Fort Bend County.
"I just saw that my dad went to work every day to do the right thing. And whether that meant whether he was going to stay in office or not he was going to do the right thing. And that's my inspiration moving forward,” said Dick.
New Sheriff Robert Chody says his inspiration is serving a community his family has called home since 2001.
"When I worked for APD and left APD I wanted to work in Williamson County to patrol the area that I live because you have a DWI in Austin, you have an impact, but arresting a DWI or some criminal element like that in the county you live it directly affects you and your family,” said Chody.
Chody's top priority is increasing correctional officer pay. He says the jail is 21 officers short. For those currently employed, morale is suffering.
"Money is an issue. We have some good employees that we need taken care of. I'm not saying we have to get them to a 12 percent increase, but we're got to do better than we're doing and we owe that to this county,” said Chody.
In addition to boosting morale, Chody wants to improve safety. He plans to do that by purchasing body cameras and ballistic vests that can stop high-powered rifle rounds.
"We're in an age where officers aren't just being shot by handguns, but by larger caliber weapons and we need to make sure we're protecting our deputies in the field and in the jail, at every level,” said Chody.
Get ready to see their two faces more often. Both say they will bring about a new level of transparency and they will do that in partnership to restore faith in the justice system.