Bexar County Commissioners have selected Leticia Vazquez, a sheriff’s deputy, for the potential replacement in the Precinct 2 Constable seat.
The incumbent constable, Michelle Barrientes Vela, declared – and later backtracked – she was running for sheriff last week, which triggered the states resign to run law starting the process for replacement. Nearly 30 people had applied to fill the remainder of the term but only five finalists were selected by commissioners during its regular Tuesday meeting. A restraining order prevents Vazquez from being immediately sworn in.
She was selected unanimously by the four commissioners present. Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert was absent. At least two commissioners said they were impressed with Vasquez’s experience in community policing and administration in the private sector.
Vasquez said her biggest challenge now is learning the operations of the constable’s office.
“I’ve been working with the sheriff’s office for 25 years. At the end of the day it is law, I do know the law, I’ve just got to try and figure out what the constable’s office is all about,” she said.
The position of constable was created in the Texas Constitution and is elected every four years. Bexar County has four different constables, one for each precinct. Their primary duties include serving as a bailiff for justices of the peace, serving warrants, subpoenas and other legal documents; and acting as licensed officers. Constables may also appoint their own deputies.
During deliberations, Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said the candidate would need to be someone who could stabilize the office.
“It’s certainly not a disqualifier but I know that court has expressed a preference that they not run for the office and that they take the interim, get the office in order and serve out the remaining 15 months in office,” Rodriguez said.
Vasquez does not plan to seek the full term.
Later Rodriguez added restoring public trust in the office was a high priority.
“If you have someone who’s been out on the streets, who’s been in neighborhoods, in front of community groups, understands and appreciates community policing that was important to me and I think she’s exhibited some good qualities today,” he said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff said his priorities were management. Vazquez worked in management roles for a grocery store.
“When I look at the constable position, I never made it a secret that I do not see this as a law enforcement position,” Wolff said.“…What I was looking for was what I’ll call administrative and managerial leadership experience because essentially you’ll have to go in and you’re going to have to clean up a shop that has struggled mightily,”
The Precinct 2 Constable’s office has seen turmoil centered on Vela. Vela was accused of shaking down Easter weekend county park goers for security fees earlier this year. A deputy constable filed suit against her for sex discrimination after an alleged 2017 hot tub incident in Galveston. Vela said she was innocent of all allegations.
Last week, Vela’s offices were raided by the FBI; that’s when she declared she would run for sheriff to local media outlets.
The state’s resign to run law says if certain office holders still have 13 months in their term when declaring a different seat, it automatically initiates resignation. Vela has 15 months left in office.
Vela recanted her announcement and sought a restraining order after commissioners began searching for her replacement. A judge granted the order. Vela was not present at Wednesday’s commissioners court meeting.
When asked how she felt taking on the task of reshaping the office, Vazquez said she was up to the challenge.
“Isn’t life turmoil sometimes?” Vazquez asked. “It’s another challenge, I have to try and fix things.”
Vazquez is temporarily blocked from being appointed due to the restraining order. A hearing will be held next Friday.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Leticia Vazquez.