For some it might be hard to imagine Collin County as an area filled with rural communities and small cities mainly linked by dirt or gravel roads. But that is exactly what the county consisted of when Collin County Sheriff Terry Box took office Feb. 14, 1985—a position he holds until Dec. 31. Box said the biggest challenge during his time as sheriff was keeping up with the explosive growth in the county.
During his more than 30 years as sheriff, Box has seen the county grow from more than 204,000 people to a projected 2015 population of 949,673.
There were roughly 35 inmates in the Collin County Jail when Box began his tenure. Today, he said, there are about 900 inmates housed in a facility Box led into a statewide spotlight.
The facility, which Box had a hand in helping come to fruition, is the longest-standing jail to be certified by the state and has been certified by the state for 28 years, Box said.
The facility has received so much attention that Box was appointed by then Gov. George Bush to serve on the Texas Commission of Jail Standards first as a board member then as chairman. The board is tasked with overseeing jail standards and their enforcement for county, municipal and private jails.
Now, with several accomplishments under his belt and a career that he said took him further than expected, Box plans to enjoy the friendships he has created with no plans to work on anything other than a ’55 Chevy or perhaps his golf swing.
You have been Collin County sheriff for more than 30 years. What made you decide it was time to retire?
Until you live in that environment for that many years, it doesn’t appear on the outside to be much stress. But when you respond to the public and everyone wants to meet with you and you have to make time for them, plus I never leave home without returning a phone call, it just adds up. I had open-heart surgery years ago; I have had bypasses; it’s just time. Plus, I feel myself slipping and maybe not pushing things as hard as I did before, and I think it’s time for new leadership to come in here and take this operation to a new level. My career has been wonderful, I have been blessed and I am ready to not have to worry every day about what new laws are coming and what the Commissioners Court is going to do budget-wise.
In your time as sheriff, you have established a reputation of being fair and honest. What do you think contributed to that?
I was raised in McKinney, and I didn’t know anybody else who loved one another as much as my mother and daddy. I was raised in the Church of Christ, and I was taught what’s right and what’s wrong. My family growing up taught me that our family name means something; my character means something.
I remember my dad owned an upholstery shop downtown where the cycle shop is now. He got into the used furniture business and sold a bunch of used furniture on credit. He got into some debt with the bank because people weren’t paying him. He went to the bank and told them he was getting out of the business and asked to set up a payment plan for what he owed. Filing for bankruptcy wasn’t even a thought in his mind. He paid them $66 a month for years to get it paid off.
I grew up in a time when a handshake meant something. If I owed you money, I owed you money and I was going to pay you. I think if you always do what you think is the right thing, you can always live with it.
Have you had to work to keep up that reputation?
I’ve had to fire folks who did the wrong thing who were very dear to us.
We have cried when they have left the room. People know that I am fair and honest, but if you lie or steal or something like that, you won’t be working here.
I always had the theory—and this is how I have lived my whole life—and that is whatever the perception of you is, that is how you are. I always thought, I have no college degree, but if I dress right, act right and have people around me who have degrees, then we will be perceived professionally.
Do you worry about how the sheriff’s office will operate once you leave?
You always worry that things will change when you leave, but I have talked to [sheriff candidate] Jim Skinner a lot lately and he wants to pick up right where I left off and keep things running smoothly.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am probably the proudest of the [Annual Terry Box Shoot Out ‘Fore’ Kids] golf tournament out of everything in my whole career. No other elected official has raised $2.2 million for charity in their whole career and I am really, really proud of that. They wanted me to start that in the beginning to help fund my campaign. I thought about it and decided to do it for charity instead. And in the past 24-25 years it has done pretty good.
How will you spend your time once retired?
I have a building at AeroCountry, so I have a place to go in the mornings to get out of my wife’s hair. I will have a place to go with an office area, a four-post lift for my cars and a little place to go to keep busy and hang out. I go to the Barrett-Jackson car auction and the Mecum auction every year. It’s a mecca. I was on TV last year driving a ’Cuda four-speed Hemi across the auction block. It’s really cool. I do that, and it’s away from my job—you’re not talking law enforcement. Every day I am here at about 7:30 a.m. There is so much stuff going on around here that if you ever get out of the loop, you’ll lose it. I have 500 employees and personnel issues, new things coming up constantly. Our world is evolving so much and I am a dinosaur.