After Randy Rhyne lost the three-way race for Brazoria County sheriff back in 2020, he headed into retirement after almost 40 years with the department. But he didn’t stay there long.
Like fellow longtime sheriff’s deputy Richard Foreman, whose retirement ended up with him becoming police chief in Oyster Creek, Rhyne last year took the top job in Danbury, another small town needing leadership. Unlike Foreman, though, Rhyne walked into an empty department.
We’ve given Danbury’s police department and its revolving door of chiefs in recent years a lot of ink, and rightfully so. The city couldn’t keep chiefs, rumors of elected officials being too involved in how the department was run was a problem and patrol officers didn’t stick around either amid low pay.
When Danbury City Council hired Rhyne last April, the city essentially had been without a department for months. Residents thought the council disbanded the department — they hadn’t — and they wanted their own police force back.
“I worked seven to eight months by myself, trying to reorganize the department and getting things back up to speed,” Rhyne said. “It’s a very daunting task when you come into a new place and you have to literally start from ground zero and start to rebuild it.”
In less than a year, Rhyne has shown he was the right man to rebuild the department from scratch. He has worked with council members to change policies that prevented him from sharing officers who worked in other cities and other inhibitors to filling his ranks. Contacts he built through his long law enforcement career have helped him recruit and convey the needs of the small department.
With the promotion of Officer Christopher Henken from part-time this week, Danbury has a legitimate police department again with three full-time employees — Rhyne, Henken and Officer David Hawkins.
Rhyne worked about eight months by himself, he said, but now has satisfied his goal of having 24-hour coverage of the city. He deserves credit, as do council members who, he says, have only asked him two questions: What do you need? and What can we do to help you?
A request for another officer is expected to come when the city takes up its budget later this year. It is a far cry from where the city was and a testament to what the right leadership can accomplish.
Pennington deserves her due
In putting together our coverage of Brazoria County Day preparations, we heard Debbie Pennington’s name repeatedly as the real force behind organizing the event.
Pennington has been involved in almost half of Brazoria County Day’s 50-year life. Her first year taking the lead in pulling a bunch of disparate forces together toward a cohesive presentation came in 1999, a year after she joined the Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County.
It has grown exponentially since then, transitioning from its reliance on in-kind donations to funding through sponsorships and volunteers to coordinate the mammoth undertaking, including the expense. Anything the Brazoria County Day committee can take from home base to Austin they do, most notably thousands of pounds of shrimp that feed people at the World’s Largest Shrimp Cocktail.
Pennington largely operates in the background, letting the spotlight shine on business and county leaders, the committee’s co-chairs and the hundreds of residents who make the trek to the State Capitol for the county’s important issues to be heard. All of those people in turn applaud Pennington, without whose efforts Brazoria County Day would not be, in the words of Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta, “The longest county day, I believe, in Austin and absolutely the best.”
On behalf of all of us in the county, Debbie, please take a bow. We appreciate your efforts.
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