When Troy Nehls took the reins of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in January, he realized there was a challenge ahead, and certainly a transition period awaited him and a new command staff.
Six months into the new venture, Sheriff Nehls finds the transition period is still in place, but the next phase of operations is just around the corner.
“We knew coming in we would be working with staff members who had work habits and procedures they had followed for 16 years,” Nehls said.
“In a way, this is like one automaker taking over another automaker’s manufacturing plant. It will take time to make adjustments, but I believe we have made great progress in the last six months.”
In the first week, the new sheriff required every employee to take a drug test, and he and his new command staff were the first in line. All of the employees passed the test, but it was clear, a new sheriff was in town.
Simultaneous to the drug testing was the introduction of a Code of Ethics.
“If we all follow this code,” Nehls said, “we will be doing our jobs and doing them with honor, and that’s what we’re all about. We really are here to protect and serve, and I want our staff to believe that in their hearts and in their actions. Some may call it old fashioned, but I believe in it and I want all of our staff members to maintain a positive frame of mind.”
Through staff meetings and communications throughout the department, Nehls is seeing progress in the agency.
“Yes, we’ve had some turnover, and that’s to be expected when a new administration comes in,” Nehls said.
“However that also means new opportunities for other employees to move up through the promotion process.”
Nehls reached out to every law enforcement agency in Fort Bend County, hoping to rebuild relationships between departments to produce positive outcomes in battling crime.
His initial step was to host a meeting of law enforcement leaders in the county to discuss goals.
“The sheriff’s office is not alone in this battle. We are not an island. We need help from other agencies and they need our help as well. Crime takes no holidays. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year, so partnerships are a cornerstone of success in this effort.”
Nehls is a career law enforcement officer, coming from a law enforcement family.
His father was the sheriff in his home state of Wisconsin, and one brother has served as a sheriff there, too.
Another brother, Trever, took over the reins of the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, the office Nehls left to become sheriff.
Nehls and his family live in the Richmond area.
He and his wife, Jill, had their first child, daughter Tori, in December. Nehls also has two step-daughters, Jenna, 12, and Cambry, 7.
Jill is the principal at Jane Long Elementary School in Lamar CISD.
Nehls retired as a major in the U. S. Army Reserves after 21 years of service.
He received Bronze Stars for service in Iraq in 2004 and service in Afghanistan in 2008.
He is in his 20th year as a law enforcement officer.
The sheriff’s office is charged with protecting the unincorporated area of Fort Bend County as well as those communities that do not have police departments.
Just about half of the county’s residents live in these areas, numbering approximately 320,000 of the county’s estimated 638,000 residents.
The Sheriff added the county’s growth will be driven by more subdivisions in unincorporated areas.
“Our service area is dominated by subdivisions that hold thousands of residents,” he said. “They have no direct municipal leadership other than their homeowners associations or municipal utility district boards. But the one thing they all have in common is the sheriff’s office. They look to us for protection and we want to meet that challenge,” he said.
At the same time, Nehls has accomplished meeting his goal of paring expenses.
Earlier this year, Nehls reduced the number of staff take-home vehicles by 25 percent, saving taxpayers as much as $100,000.
Nehls also has strived to limit overtime expenses by staff members, reducing overtime costs by as much as 50 percent, saving taxpayers $362,559 so far this year.
The sheriff’s office also is taking on crime solve rates.
“We have made strategic changes in this area and I believe we have tangible results,” he said. “Make no mistake, we are following case clearance protocol by the book, so when we issue case solve data, you can bank on those statistics.”
The sheriff’s office has 735 employees, almost half of which are dedicated to the detention division.
Nehls said his staff is making every effort to exemplify a higher sense of professionalism.
“Our task is to protect and serve more than 300,000 people with about 200 deputies and detectives who are on the street 24/7. Every one of our 735 employees plays a vital role in this process. The challenge is extraordinary, but I believe we have the personnel to meet it,” Nehls said.