HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Insuring the welfare of 9,000 inmates. Keeping the peace across 2,000 square miles. Responsibility for a half-billion taxpayer dollars. The job of Harris County Sheriff is what many in Texas call "a tough row to hoe" and yet, the man currently wearing the badge believes he was built for it.
"It's a massive organism," said Ron Hickman, who is campaigning as a Republican to keep his job as Harris County Sheriff. "You have to come in with leadership skills."
Appointed 15 months ago, Hickman said he hopes Harris County voters will keep him as their law enforcement leader for the long haul. The former Harris County Precinct 4 Constable added that his slate of ongoing reforms should give them solid reason.
Hickman's top challenge will be to stabilize the violence-ridden jail with higher quality detention officers.
"We raised the hiring age to 21, right away," said Hickman. "So we get a more mature individual. About half our classes are ex-military, which brings a more mature candidate in the front door."
And then there's Hickman's brand new $5 million investment in high definition surveillance. Video cameras are now constantly recording every human interaction within the jail walls. The sheriff believes so many eyes "in the sky" will alter the culture of incarceration.
"Putting a video system in holds both our inmates and our employees accountable," said Hickman.
On the enforcement side, Hickman points to a first-of-its-kind "high tech crime unit" for Harris County and what he calls an earnest, long-term effort to connect with the Houston-area's diverse religious and ethnic populations.
"In order to represent them, at some point we know we are going to have to recruit people from those communities so we will have people like them that want to protect their own, to work in their communities as peace officers," said Hickman.
Hickman will face former Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, a Democratic candidate, in the Nov. 8 election.
FOX 26 News profiled Gonzalez on Aug. 30.