Political newcomer Mike Ochoa is challenging Brazoria County Precinct 2 Constable Willie Howell III in the Republican primary, with the winner running unopposed for the seat in November.
Howell, 58, is a lifelong Brazoria County resident who was born in Freeport and now lives in Angleton.
Howell has been married to Sally Rivera Howell for 30 years. They have a daughter, Natalie Briers, and son-in-law Mark; and three sons, Jesse W. Howell and his wife, LeAndra, Matthew J. Howell and his girlfriend, Laura Adams, and Patrick Howell and his wife, Summer.
He also has four grandsons and three granddaughters, he said.
Brazoria County Commissioners’ Court appointed Howell as constable in 1999. and it is the only political office in which he’s served.
He is a 20-year member of the Texas Justice of the Peace and Constable Association, past president of Danbury Rotary Club, a life member of the Brazoria County Fair Association, past president of the Texas Shrine Clown Association and a member of the NRA, he said.
He has also served on the board of directors of Greater Angleton Chamber of Commerce and the organization named him Citizen of the Year in 2013, he said. He also named numerous other involvements with groups including the 100 Club of Brazoria County and Shriners Hospital for Children, Galveston Burn Hospital Board of Governors.
He can be found on Facebook at the page “Brazoria County Pct. 2 Constable Willie Howell” on Instagram at willie.howell, and as Willie Howell on Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ochoa, 39, an Abilene native, has lived in Angleton since 1993. He works in construction as a safety supervisor.
He has a “beautiful wife Amanda and two daughters,” 13-year-old Brooklyn and 6-year-old stepdaughter Callie, he said.
He is a Brazoria County Hispanic Lions Club Charter Member, he said.
His campaign website is electmikeochoa.com and he can be found at “Elect Mike Ochoa for Constable Pct. 2” on Facebook.
Early voting for the primary begins Tuesday and ends Feb. 28. Election Day is March 3.
The candidates were emailed identical questionnaires. Their answers appear alphabetically.
What would you do to ensure deputy safety while serving civil papers?
HOWELL: This is already in place. When a complaint is filed in the JP office, my office has an information sheet that needs to be filled out and ask if there is a possible threat or concerns. If so, we know to send two deputies. On other papers, my deputies are trained to know what to look for and can spot a potential problem such as divorces, TROs, proactive orders, etc. On Writs of Possessions, Writ of Attachments, Writ of Executions where kids or property is taken, it is my policy to have two deputies there at all times.
As far as the deputies, they are all issued body armor and it is policy to wear it.
OCHOA: A deputy constable has the ability and authority to enforce any law that a deputy sheriff or a police officer can enforce. I have found it is a common misconception in Brazoria County that constables only serve civil papers and do not enforce Texas laws including traffic infractions. Nothing could be further from the truth. In many cases, a deputy constable in Brazoria County has more experience and training than a deputy sheriff or a police officer working patrol. With that being said, I feel the safety and security of any peace officer is of utmost importance. As constable of Precinct 2, I would first ensure the agency has a policy and procedure in place and that all deputies clearly understand them. I would also make sure all deputies receive proper training in areas regarding safety, proper awareness and defusing situations, just to name a few. Lastly, I would ensure my team has the tools and equipment needed to be successful in all aspects of their duties.
The role of a constable is changing as the offices step up to help with traffic enforcement and other street duties. What would you do to improve traffic safety?
HOWELL: Our job as constables comes first. We are constitutionally obligated to take care of the Justice of the Peace Courts and services of its papers and warrants. We also receive papers from the County Clerk’s office, District Clerk’s office, Attorney General’s Office and out of county papers. I have my deputies make sure service is done with as quick turnaround as possible. This is first, this is our job.
As for the traffic, two years ago with the help of Commissioner Ryan Cade and Commissioners’ Court we purchased SAM 1 and SAM 2 (Speed Awareness Monitors), which are portable radar trailers that flash your speed and hopes to slow you down. We also have SAM 3 (Deputy Sam Crosby). When time allows or when we have traffic complaints come into the office, SAM 3 will go out and work traffic. We also work minor accidents and help the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office with calls. I have at least three deputies work major holidays to be on 288 freeway or assist with calls. We work around November to the end of December in the parking lots of FM 518 around Walmart and Target area to deter crime, traffic control and to assist the Sheriff’s Office with calls when needed. I am also looking into a contract with the new toll road.
I will say that all my units are fully equipped with the most updated equipment and can handle any call that comes our way.
OCHOA: Although in Brazoria County the role of constable has been limited to civil paper service, the role of constable in Texas has always been the same, a constable is a fully empowered peace officer with countywide jurisdiction and thus, may legally exercise their authority in any precinct within their county.
Think of the four most important people in your life, odds are at least one of those four very important people will be involved in a major crash or fatal accident in their lifetime. That’s a scary thought. It is my goal to increase traffic enforcement to make our streets safer for our citizens. Additionally, instead of the common practice in Brazoria County of notifying a Texas Highway Patrol trooper to work a major accident, I would ensure my team is trained and ready to take the lead on any incident they would encounter which would allow deputy sheriffs and DPS troopers to remain in service and provide services elsewhere throughout the county instead of tying up multiple agencies on one incident. In addition, I would work with local agencies and partner with organizations to educate the community on traffic safety including proper use of child safety seats and other life saving practices. A part of improving any item is to educate people and bring awareness.
What do you think the role of a constable is among other law enforcement agencies?
HOWELL: When I first started this job in 1999, I was a one-man department and only handled civil process. Now we have grown to five full-time deputies, two full-time clerks, one part-time clerk, two part-time court bailiffs, five paid reserves and myself. We are a fully functional law enforcement department. We are asked to assist by other police departments and the sheriff’s department; this may be for traffic control to serving felony warrants.
OCHOA: Building strong working relationships and establishing clear and effective communication with other law enforcement agencies is key. We have the same goal. Our job as peace officers is to ensure safety and security for the residents of this county along with people just passing through. Working together with other agencies to make our county the safest in Texas is my goal.