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What Can You Find Out About Texomaland County Governments Online?

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Since many Texomans have personal experiences with the many facets of our elected, county officials and their departmental bureaucrats, I decided that a quick online search for information on just one sector of that elected group would prove interesting. I put myself in the mindset of a new property owner and picked the five sheriff’s offices in the counties directly surrounding our lake to research online. I searched through all of the online information that I could quickly find on each sheriff in our beloved region. Quickly is the key word.

Bryan County, Oklahoma

Bryan County Oklahoma’s Sheriff’s Office takes a proactive stance on its Facebook page by posting pictures of criminals and/or their vehicles, non-graphic crime scenes, at-a-boys, and new elects or hires. Out of the 10,056 followers, 10,115 people like their page. The office operates a K-9 unit, and patrol, criminal investigation, and air support divisions. They bought a new helicopter in 2007. Sheriff Ken Golden took office in 2013.

An official Bryan County Sheriff’s page did not show up on the Google search. Ken Golden did not run for sheriff last November. In January of 2016, KXII reported that Bryan County Sheriff's Office Investigator John Haislip and Durant Police Reserve Captain John Wyatt were running for Bryan County Sheriff. Nothing in the online search told me who won the election. I went back to their Facebook page and scrolled back in time to learn that the new Sheriff-elect is Johnny Christian.

Cooke County, Texas

Cooke County proudly exhibits a whole web page on Sheriff Terry Gilbert, which gives out plenty of citizen resources and lets you know that he belongs to Cooke County. You can see who they have in custody, read a racial profile and policy report, check road conditions, call the non-emergency office phones, pay traffic citations, and directly click onto their Facebook page.

The links on their official page cite departments within the sheriff's office and supplies links to other county agencies. Residents do not need to go to Facebook for information, but 6,114 people follow the office, and 6,025 like the office. The Cooke County Sheriff’s office posts feel-good pictures and fraud alerts on their Facebook page. I discovered that only four Cooke County sheriffs lost their lives in the line of duty; three in 1881 and one in 1927.*

Grayson County, Texas

Google Grayson County Texas Sheriff’s Office and you will see that the sheriff’s homepage describes the great history of the Office of Sheriff in Texas, Grayson County’s Sheriff history, programs, and demographic information. Top and side menus have informative links. The sheriff’s main phone number is at the bottom of the page, but the page makes no mention of the current sheriff’s name. The Grayson County Sheriff’s Facebook page shows scattered feel-good posts and warnings.

From Facebook, If you click on Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, it links you to the same Facebook page you are already looking at. I still did not know who the acting sheriff was. Finally, I went back to the official homepage and located an elected officials link from the top menu. In little, tiny fonts, I read that Keith Gary will hold the sheriff’s title until 2016. I can email him, call his office or go back to the official sheriff’s homepage. Sheriff-elect Tom Watt thanks Grayson County on his Facebook page.

Love County, Oklahoma

I did not open the numerous websites listed on the Google search that described the hornet’s nest that the Love County Sheriff’s Office resembled this year. Dirty laundry trumps good old-fashioned information. The office has a Facebook page. After Googling around for a few minutes, I decided to open two Love County websites. They both led to the Love County Chamber of Commerce website. That website is short on county information. Then on, I found the Love County Sheriff’s Office address, phone and fax numbers, some county officials, and other Love County resources. There is no mention about the acting Love County Sheriff.

Marshall County, Oklahoma

Googling Marshall County’s Sheriff Ed Kent and Undersheriff Danny Crier took about 30 seconds. Up popped a nice picture of each, a county menu on top, and a side menu with county information. I did not locate a non-emergency phone number for the sheriff’s office until I clicked on their Facebook page off of the Google search page, which shows limited but informative activity. Sheriff Kent is a member of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association.

Over the years, I have noticed that it usually takes between two to five phone calls or transfers to another department to receive any correct information for my personal business with most county agencies in Anywhere, U.S.A. I believe that my local, elected official’s contact information should be at my fingertips in a snap. I can remember scouring through phone books just to reach the right person in pre-1994. Websites have the ability to do away with that stinging memory, don’t they?

I got the impression that the sheriff’s office in Bryan County might have a small media budget, but they work hard to keep constituents involved through Facebook, and they really want to connect on a personal level with them; they just forgot that the name of their sheriff might be important.

I found the Cooke and Marshall County Sheriff’s Office websites the easiest ones to navigate and quickly locate information. Marshall County just forgot that their phone numbers are important, but I located a number in less than a minute. I felt good when I looked through the Marshall and Cooke County’s Sheriff’s sites because I sensed that they really want me to know who their sheriffs are as people and that their sheriffs want me to talk to them too. Their sheriff’s pictures popped right up at first click, and you can read their mission statements immediately underneath their pictures.

If I was a newcomer to Texomaland, Grayson and Love County’s non-information would frustrate me. Both Love County’s non-existing and Grayson County’s Sheriff’s websites gave me that, “OH NO! UGH!!! I have to deal with these bureaucrats!” feeling . . .

In my not-so-important opinion, I think that government bureaucracies heavily weigh down their website development with tunnel vision on the part of their organizational committees or perceived small budgets. Small staffs or no staff members probably inhibit other county’s information dissemination processes. The Bryan County Sheriff’s Office effectively connects with their constituents with a free Facebook page.

With other county agencies, it is possible that the person(s) in charge of agency website development does not understand how extremely important it has become to present its information in an easy to find format along with pictures of people that make us feel like we really want to talk to them.

KXII currently broadcasts a “Texas Association of Counties” (TAC) Public Service Announcement campaign from the Texas Association of Broadcasters (TAB) informing Texomans that “Texas Counties Deliver: Effective, Efficient, Local Solutions.” You can reach your Oklahoma Association of County Commissioners (ACCO) and TAC by phone or website. The TAC and ACCO websites offer great information on your county government operations.**

*Many outlaws from Indian Nation actively targeted the Texas side of the Red River basin in Texomaland in 1881. Undersheriff Dallas Hodges of Grayson County also lost his life in the line of duty that year.

**Shout out to Todd Bates at KXII for the last minute information.



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