Johnwayne Valdez has been preparing for his new job for 34 years.

Valdez is your new sheriff, Rusk County, and you’ve got a no-nonsense, hard worker that plans to get the job done. And the job is reducing the crime rate – immediately.

Valdez defeated incumbent sheriff Jeff Price last week in the runoff election, but the campaign was a lot of work in itself.

“I went into this 18 months ago,” Valdez said, “knowing it would be an uphill battle. A lot of people just didn’t know who I was. I developed a strategy to hit the outlying county areas, and of course, I went to Kilgore early-on. And then (coronavirus) hit, and I still managed to reach out. I did a lot of social media. And if I went to visit folks, I did a lot of social distancing.”

Valdez’s message: you may not know me now, but if elected, I’m going to make a big difference, and I’m going to do it quickly. He’s a man who is determined to get good results and to clean up Rusk County. And he’s going to do it being straight-forward. “I’m going to be open and honest,” Valdez told the News Herald. “You might not like my answer, but you’ll never walk away doubting what I said was the truth.”

Like two other newly-elected Rusk County officials – Commissioner Precinct One, Randy Gaut and Constable Precinct One, Richard Stanley – Valdez has no Democratic opponent for the November election, so he will use that time that he might have used campaigning to make himself a better sheriff when he officially assumes office Jan. 14, 2021.

And he’s already started, in fact.

“Started the very next day,” Valdez said, referring to last Wednesday, the day after his election. “I was at the courthouse, and had meetings with the district judge, the district attorney’s office, the county judge and the county court law judge, and give them a synopsis of short-term and long-term goals. I know our 2022 budget will be tight, so I’m already prepping.”

Valdez didn’t stop there.

“I’ve visited with all the chiefs of police that are in the county. …I told them let’s be very open with our communication and see if we can’t get this crime rate severely knocked down in the first year.”

And there will be no mistaking Valdez for anyone else.

“I’m very proactive,” he said. “I don’t like sitting in an office. I will be in a uniform, and I will drive a (marked) police car.”

What about Valdez, the man?

Well, the Winnie, Texas native – a big Notre Dame fan – was home on election night with his wife of 29 years, Gina, and his parents, who came up from Beaumont. Johnwayne and his wife have two adult children: Logan, 26, and Lauren – and by the time this is being read, he likely just became a granddad.

His daughter and her husband, Steve Ramos, were to have their first child this week, giving Johnwayne and Gina their first grandchild.

One other thing about Valdez: don’t ever make the mistake of thinking he isn’t all-business when it comes to, as he put it to the News Herald, “catching the bad guys.”

“I’ve been on the street,” Valdez said. “What I bring to the table is a current working knowledge of what the streets are like.”


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