Fort Worth

Bill Waybourn sworn in as first new Tarrant County sheriff in 16 years

New Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn speaks with his wife, Laura, by his side after being sworn in Sunday at the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth.
New Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn speaks with his wife, Laura, by his side after being sworn in Sunday at the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth. Special to the Star-Telegram

New year, new era for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department.

For the first time in 16 years, there’s a new leader: Sheriff Bill Waybourn, who was sworn in Sunday on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse.

The longtime police chief in Dalworthington Gardens told those gathered that he will not become comfortable in his new role and will be committed every day to “doing the right thing.”

“We will be fair and we will be compassionate, but we will not apologize for enforcing the law,” Waybourn said. “Our goal is to be the best sheriff’s office in the country.”

Waybourn was easily elected in November after a contentious campaign against now former Sheriff Dee Anderson in the Republican primary. Anderson, Tarrant County’s sheriff since 2001, had beaten Waybourn in the March 1 primary 49 percent to 41, but it was not enough to win the election outright and Waybourn rallied in the runoff, winning 55 percent of the vote to Anderson’s 45 percent.

No Democrat ran against Waybourn in November, and the GOP nominee easily defeated Libertarian Max Koch III with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Local dignitaries, law enforcement officers from agencies across North Texas, and even country singer Randy Travis were among the several hundred people in attendance to hear Waybourn take the oath of office, administered by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, a retired Army officer.

Birdwell praised not only the new sheriff but also his wife, Laura Waybourn.

“They both serve together,” he said. “Bill in the official capacity and Laura in the unofficial capacity as first lady of Tarrant County. She is going to be a great first lady for you, I promise. She is a great servant, a great prayer warrior and makes a great chocolate chip cookie.”

Other speakers described the sheriff as humble, kind, selfless, a man of integrity,a godly man and a Christian.

Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle and an author, political commentator and activist, told the crowd that Waybourn is the type of officer who truly cares for all people and is known for telling inmates, “I will pray for you,” as he closes the jail cell.

Waybourn said the foundation of his faith started with his parents, who raised him and his seven siblings to be leaders and servants.

“On behalf of the family and the extended family, this is a big deal,” Bill Waybourn’s brother Charles Waybourn said before the ceremony. “But we recognize it’s a bigger deal for all of the honest, hardworking people of Tarrant County.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1

At a Dalworthington Gardens' City Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, Mayor Mike Tedder responds to reporters' questions about the city's former police chief Bill Waybourn. Waybourn is running for Tarrant County sheriff. Video by pmoseley

Members of new Sheriff Bill Waybourn’s command staff announced Sunday:

  • Mike Simonds, senior chief
  • Tim Canas, chief of patrol
  • Raul Banasco, executive chief confinement
  • Cedric Simon, chief confinement
  • Randy Cundiff, chief confinement
  • Craig Driskell, executive chief personnel and judicial
  • Jerry Vennum, chief of warrants
  • Roy Kurban, chief admin
  • Steve Sparks, chief of inmate services
  • David McClelland, chief of staff