Darrell Huffman

Incoming constable is lawman by day, farmer by night

After a second-place finish in the Republican primary, Darrell Huffman rallied his supporters and came out victorious in this summer's runoff election with nearly 56 percent of the vote against challenger Jason McCaffity. With no Democratic rival this fall, Huffman will take on the responsibilities of the county's largest and second-most populated constable precinct, Precinct 3, in January.

"[Constable] Zane Hilger has such a good reputation that I hope I'm able to continue that and possibly improve," said Huffman, the county's delinquent tax specialist who currently serves as a sergeant overseeing the Southlake office. "We'll have a newer face for this constable's office, but really we've just got to keep on with what we're doing and try to do it more efficiently as the workload grows."

Huffman, a 47-year-old Mount Pleasant native who moved to Grapevine in 1990, committed himself to public service and attended the police academy in 2004. After a stint with the Crowley Police Department cut short by an off-the-job injury, he began working for the constable's office in 2006, first as a reserve deputy and then as a part-timer before taking on a full-time job in 2008. He and his wife, Mendi Hall, married in 1997, and they and their children, 8-year-old Halli and 3-year-old Wren, live on a 45-acre farm at the corner of Pool and Hall Johnson roads best known for its corn maze and pumpkin patch open to the public each fall.

In addition to raising a family, working the farm and serving in the constable's office, Huffman has also returned to school and hopes to earn a degree in criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington by the time he's 52.

What attracted you to law enforcement?

When the space shuttle crashed over Nacogdoches, a friend of mine and I went down there to volunteer. Just seeing all the different agencies working together and the work they were doing, it really appealed to me and I decided public service was something I really wanted to do.

I had a friend who was a police officer here in Southlake, and I rode out nights with him to see what it was like doing the job. In 2004, I decided that I was going to go to the academy.

Why did you decide to run for office?

Zane approached me about running for this position to take his place — somebody he could trust that already knew how the office runs, what the county officials expected out of this office.

He knew that I'd been around long enough to know how everything functioned, and he trusted me to handle the things he'd built up for this office and its reputation.

My wife and I both thought about it long and hard, and when it came time, we decided I'd gone as far as I could in this office and the next step would be to take this on.

What are your goals as constable?

My goals are to see that this office runs day to day like it should, like it has. The only change that people will see for sure is that we're going to mark our cars like the rest of the constables in the county.

That means you will no longer see a white unmarked crown vic with a constable in it, you will see "constable" in big black letters down both sides so there's no question about who it is in the car.

The face of the constable's office is changing as more and more guys in their prime choose to work for the constable's office instead of going into police work, and we want the public to see and recognize us for what we are, as law enforcement officials.

What does the constable's office handle?

Constables' duties are civil in nature, meaning our main responsibilities are serving papers — lawsuit papers, writs of execution, child support papers, warrants.

We do evictions, mostly for apartment complexes, but here lately the foreclosure rate has gotten so high we're doing move-outs on houses. We seize cars, we seize land; we are the arms and legs of anything that comes out of the court system.

And this office, Precinct 3, takes care of all the delinquent tax sales for the county. In fact, I'm the one who handles the auctions on the courthouse steps the first Tuesday of every month.

How does a constable's deputy differ from a police officer or sheriff's deputy?

Police officers focus on criminal aspects of the law — traffic violations, crime, arrests — and their jurisdiction is within their own city. Sheriff's deputies also focus on crime, mostly in the unincorporated parts of the county or in cities that don't have their own police departments, and their other main responsibility is for the jails, for inmate care.

We receive all the same academy training as police officers and more, so we will also help out the police and sheriff's offices when we're asked or when we're the closest to the scene when a call comes in. We can arrest people, we can do traffic stops ... but the difference is we don't sit on the side of the road looking for traffic violators. I'll be meeting with all of the police chiefs in the precinct once my duties begin to remind them we're here to help.