Republican Debate Transcript: Setliff v. Zenner for Precinct 1 Constable
Jessica Goode | Contributing Writer
Pct. 1 Constable
Adam Zenner: I am a lifelong resident of Kendall County, 49 years next month. I have deep seeded roots here. My great great great grandfather settled here in 1856 on a piece of property off Scenic Loop Road. I have very long history of serving Kendall County. I joined the volunteer fire department in 1989… remained an active member until 2017 when I resigned from the volunteer side. In 1997, I was hired as career fire fighter in the city of Terrell Hills. I remained captain there until 2009. In 2009, I began working in Kendall County at the City of Boerne Fire Department, where I am now captain. I have a very, very long history of serving the community.
Todd Setliff: Next month I will have 30 years of law enforcement experience. The majority of that was in a state law enforcement capacity. August before last, I retired from the Texas Department of Public Safety, after serving 28 years. I moved to Boerne in 1996, and it wasn’t very long thereafter that I decided I wanted to make Boerne my home. While I was here in Kendall County working as trooper I developed a lot of good relationships with county officials, other law enforcement agencies and first responders. I think these relationships are going to be beneficial as your constable. I’m currently working for the Sheriff’s Office. I’m assigned to the courthouse security detail, and I’m primarily the bailiff for 451st district court in Kendall County. When we’re not in court, we’re out serving civil process papers and warrants and actually done a couple of evictions. They’re not fun to do, but they’re necessary. These past few months, I have gotten insight into what a constable does. After the position became available, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
What are the most important duties of a constable?
Zenner: The sworn duties, first being a licensed peace officer and acting as such in the state of Texas is first and foremost. Secondly your sworn duties to bailiff the court, serve papers in the county. Also, patrol I think is huge. Getting back in the community, seeing the community, schools, subdivisions, businesses, patrolling the streets, letting people know that you’re there for them. Also being there for the children. IF you can mentor a child and turn them in the right direction in time of need, we can make a huge impact as law enforcement or any first responder. I think it’s a very, very big part of this job. Mainly being out in the community and letting people see that you are actually fulfilling the duties they elected you to do.
Setliff: It’s a pretty broad question. First of all, we need to take care of responsibilities, that’s civil process, being a bailiff. At the same time being available to other law enforcement officers out there. When I was a trooper, and had to deal with someone who wasn’t particularly nice, it was nice when a backup officer arrived. It’s important to help each other out there.
Why are you best qualified for this job?
Setliff: I believe it’s my law enforcement experience. I have over 30 years of law enforcement experience. I served in four counties, and I accumulated over 4,400 hours of law enforcement training. I also hold a Masters Peace Officers certificate that’s issued by the state that regulates Texas peace officers. I’m very proud of that. It takes a long time to earn something like that. I have vast, many topics… everything from crash investigations, DWI arrests, human trafficking, drug intervention. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to do what a constable does and I still have a lot to learn. Having the assets and people to help you along the way, I think I’m the best person for the job based on my experience.
Zenner: In my 22-year career in fire service, the last 18 have been in a command role, in command structure management setting. I’ve commanded anywhere from small instances with two people to large-scale instances with 30. Being part of the paid department, I was able to manage the maintenance budget of Terrell Hills for eight years. I have a lot of budgeting experience which I can bring to the table. I think that my time with the fire service and serving the community, you know I’m committed, you know I’m committed to Kendall County because of what I’ve already given.
What real world experience do you bring to this job?
Zenner – I will admit my law enforcement experience is nil. But I do bring a lot of real world experience as far as my career goes. I’m a management person; I manage very well. I’m very well respected throughout the fire community as a leader, as a commander, as a manager. I think my time management skills will put me out on the street, fulfill my duties to the court and out on the street, where I need to be. Me, with my time management, will put me out in the community, where you will see me doing my job. You can see me patrolling, you can see me patrolling in your subdivisions, schools and businesses.
Setliff: Over the years, you develop a sense of how to communicate with people, especially those with mental illnesses. A lot of people that you arrest, you have to learn how to de-escalate. That’s something you learn over time. You learn how to talk with people. That experience on how to deal with people that have a problem and turn it into a positive solution.
Describe the training you’ve received that makes you a good candidate?
Setliff: I graduated from DPS academy back in 1990. It was a six-month course. Started out with 146 cadettes, graduated 96. It was pretty tough; it was rigorous. Every two years, the legislature comes up with new laws and rules. So throughout the years we’re constantly studying different aspects of law enforcement, different aspects of procedure and different aspects of the code of criminal procedure. I have that under my belt. I don’t know everything. But if I don’t know a question, I have the ability to find people who do. A massive amount of training.
Zenner: My training consists more of management. I also graduated my academy in 1991 from TEEX A&M. Throughout the years I’ve procured several state level certifications in my field, management being the biggest part of it. This office isn’t going to stay small forever. It’s going to sooner or later accumulate deputies, reserve deputies, part-time deputies. My training, being a manger and being able to manage a budget, will be instrumental in this position.
What do you believe the public expects of you as a constable?
Zenner – I hope the public expects us to be there, to be seen, to be patrolling, to be interacting with the community. I’m a big believer in mentoring. It goes a long, long way if we can steer that one or two troubled youth in a direction of a better path, I think that is huge. I would love to be able to interact with a resource officer of the Boerne Police Department and Kendall County Sheriff’s Department and facilitate that along with them. They can be instrumental in directing our youth and I want to be a part of that. Obviously fulfilling my court duties. That’s a given that you have to do. Just be out there and be seen. If you elect a person they should be visible. You should see them patrolling. You should see them out there walking in businesses in uniform. Letting people know who you are and what you’re about and you’re there for them.
Setliff: I think Mr. Zenner said that very well. Different people in the community have different expectations. The primary responsibility is to do what the Constitution mandates in the JP court and the civil process, and being available when the court is in session. When court’s not in session, you need to do additional things for your community. I want to be the kind of constable you can call when you have a question. Since I’ve been campaigning I’ve had people call with concerns of people speeding down the road. I want to be able do those things and to answer people’s concerns.
What is the most important justice issue in Precinct 1 today?
Setliff: Since I’ve been at the courthouse, I’ve seen numerous departments; it’s getting busier and busier every month. A lot of people are moving into the community, and these departments are sometimes stretched a little bit. I see a lot of county employees working on their lunch hour. It’s not a few times. It’s often. As far as the JP office, small claims is fixing to go up to $20,000. So that’s going to increase the work loads for JP offices quite a bit. We need to prepare for that, and they’re getting busier and busier all the time with all kinds of different civil process. The community is growing very, very fast, and JP offices are having to deal with a lot more work. When I first got here in Kendall County back in 1996 it was totally different. We’re living in a different era now, and this county is growing very fast. We need people who are willing, able and capable of taking on the task, and we need to help each other.
Zenner: I can see our population growing as well. And the population isn’t growing necessarily in the perfect way. We have a lot of lower income apartment buildings which evictions probably skyrocket in those situations and also rental properties and I think evictions probably will top the chart if not already very close to in the very near future. Being able to handle yourself in a professional manner while serving that eviction or those papers is instrumental. I don’t know exact numbers of what the actual top issue is now, but I can only imagine that is one and growing very fast.
Tell about a conflict resolution that you were particularly proud of.
Zenner – I have no answer for this question. I cannot try to answer that question. Will do some research and find a conflict and resolution.
Setliff: I had a neighbor. I’ll change his name to “Jim.” We had developed a rapport. One day, he decided to take his wife’s purse and put it on the grill and light it on fire. He went into a rage. I was home, and my kids were going “what the heck is going on?” It looked like the Boerne Police Department was securing the scene. “Jim” came outside, and it was very, very tense. I told him it would be better to go to jail than the hospital. I talked to him for a little while. He said, “Todd, I’ll go to jail if you take me.” I was in my civilian clothes. I put him in a black and white. I took him to jail and nobody got hurt. I’m very proud of that.
How many hours per week do you intend to work as constable?
Setliff: I do intend to be a full time constable. I’m not going to attach 40 hours, or less or more. I’ve seen constables in this precinct work a lot, and some not so much. My primary responsibility is to the court. Once I take care of that stuff, then my responsibility is out in the community. And like Mr. Zenner said, I need to be a mentor, and go to the schools, and take care of issues. Whether that takes 40 or 50 hours, if I can do it, I want to do it. I have no problem with that. When I was with DPS, I worked 50 hours a week. Sometimes a lot more when I was working along the border. I can’t give a number. I will take on the task. I want to be accountable to the citizens who elect me.
Zenner: I don’t know that you can put an hour for hour scope on what we need to do. I intend to continue working for the City of Boerne for two more years. The schedule that I work is 24/48 hours, so I work 24 hours and I’m off 48 hours. So that gives me ample time to put in a 40-hour week. I have no problem working weekends, holidays, or birthdays. You can ask my wife. I am gone all the time. I feel the duty is to be there for the citizens, regardless of time, regardless of hour of night. You can’t put a number on what you do. It’s more when you’re going to be out there.
How well do you know Kendall County and its neighborhoods?
Zenner: 49 years, I know it pretty well. Being on the fire department, I’ve responded to just about every part of the county that there is. Definitely Precinct 1, which is my home precinct for many years. We take map tests at the fire department to make sure we’re familiar with the county, to make sure we’re proficient. We responded to 1,350 calls last year, and it’s growing quite rapidly. I have seen a lot of the county in emergency situations and every day life. It’s growing. We all know it’s growing. I’m keeping up with that growth.
Setliff: I’ve worked in Kendall County for 24 years, I know the roads pretty well, but I must admit I use a GPS often. There are a lot of new subdivisions out there. Over the years, you know there are areas that have problems. Mr. Zenner could probably tell you where there are a lot of accidents on Hwy. 46 like I could.
What is the main crime risk in Precinct 1?
Setliff: Criminally – burglaries and narcotics. Domestic violence is a high issue. Drugs probably are more so. Burglaries unfortunately are going up all the time. I think it’s a lot of San Antonio moving in.
Zenner: I would have to go in line with what Mr. Setliff said. Narcotics are big. They have been a rapidly growing problem in this community for several years. I remember in high school it wasn’t such an issue, and now it is a huge issue. Burglaries are increasing. As we grow, as we’re more of a target, I feel that those are going to get that much worse. They’re not going away. The best we can do is be out there, and be there when it happens.
What is your opinion of red flag laws regarding gun ownership?
Zenner: I think gun control is good trigger manipulation and practice. I think everybody should have one. I think every legal person and every person who can lawfully own a weapon should bear a weapon. That’s been my stance my entire life
Setliff: I agree. I’m a big second amendment supporter. In all my years, working on the road, I was always put at ease when a person had a CHL. It’s the people who don’t tell you they have a gun are the ones who worry me. It’s every citizen’s right to have a weapon. It’s a big responsibility too. If you want to have a weapon in your vehicle, that’s not an issue. I encourage it.
How often do you practice with your firearm?
Setliff: Mandated with DPS to qualify twice a year with sidearm and rifle or shotgun. Same thing with the Sheriff’s Office. I’ve shot so many times that it’s not as much fun as it used to be. It’s not a hobby of mine; I’ve done so much. It’s something that I enjoy, but I’d rather be fishing. I’m very proficient with my firearm. I score very high. Last time I qualified for the Sheriff’s Office, the instructor said I was probably in the top 10 percent.
Zenner: I don’t think you can practice enough. I practice often. I have a range at my home. My wife and I shoot quite often. I enjoy shooting. I do believe that practice and proficiency are where it’s at. I am proficient with a firearm, long gun, shot gun and handgun. I love it. I’d like to be fishing and hunting to tell you the truth. I believe that practice makes perfect, and proficiency is number one.
What do you believe is the most challenging part of a constable’s job?
Zenner: Being self-disciplined enough to keep doing the job. I think over the years, as it goes on, people get complacent and get very satisfied with the little work that they do. The most challenging part is probably being self-disciplined enough to be out there on patrol, to be out there in the community, to fulfill your court duties, to do the things that you were put in the office to do. You’re your own manager. So time management is important. Self time management. I’m a very self-driven person. I don’t condone complacency.
Setliff: A lot of it has to do with civil process. I’ve had to serve divorce papers; I’ve had to do writ of attachment when you take kids away from bad parents, or having to do an eviction. Those things are tough. People can get very angry real quick. So that’s probably one of the scariest things you can do is knock on someone’s door and give them bad news.
Do you have any criminal history including traffic violations?
Setliff: I’ve only been stopped twice since I’ve been in law enforcement in last 30 years. I was issued a warning. I knew I was going to be issued a warning because I was only going a few miles over the speed limit. That’s how you get people for warrants and drugs. In college, I was stopped for speeding tickets. I got a ticket once for no front license plate. It’s been a long, long time ago.
Zenner: I’ve been pulled over three times, two warnings and one traffic ticket. The whole time I’ve been driving, I have no criminal history. I’m a rule follower.
How would you handle a situation where you needed to take a leave of absence?
Zenner: I think there’s a limit to a leave of absence. I think you should be self disciplined enough to know there’s a limit to a leave of absence. In some circumstances probably would dictate how long that leave of absence would be. In some circumstances you could justify a leave of absence, but at some point a leave of absence should expire. I do feel that there should be a limit. That goes along again with self-discipline and self-management; knowing what’s right and what’s wrong; knowing you could possibly be taking advantage of the people who put you in office. I don’t think we should put a time frame, but as an adult you should know what’s right and what’s wrong, and extended leave of absence should be unjustified, in my opinion. I think you should go along with county policy and what the county allows their employees to do.
Setliff: I’m assuming a leave of absence for a medical issue. There are times when you get older, you may need surgery or something like that requires being out for a certain period of time. If that occurred to me, I know that constables in this room, they’re good constables. I think I would get with them and strategize how to take care of my responsibilities if I were going to be out of pocket for a while.
What should be a constable’s relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and Boerne Police Department?
Setliff: It should be a relationship of trust. Fortunately we live a good community where not too many bad things happen, but from time to time, it does. We have a major interstate that runs through here and some bad people come through town. Kendall County is pretty unique. Have worked in communities where the Sheriff’s Office does not get along with the Police Department, and that’s not the case here in Kendall County. You’re fortunate to work in a community where all of law enforcement agencies work together and communicate with each other. There’s not a whole lot of ego.
Zenner: I’m going to throw out a cheesy term we have in the fire service, it’s called “the brotherhood and sisterhood.” I think it goes in law enforcement side as well. It’s invaluable to have a great working relationship with all law enforcement agencies, not just the Sheriff’s Office or the Police Department, but the game warden, the highway patrol, the other constables’ offices. I think it’s imperative. We can be there to back up another officer. Maybe take some of the load off an officer and get them back out on their beat.
What could be provided to improve the constables work efficiency (equipment, staff, etc)?
Zenner: Not knowing what they have equipment wise, just keeping up with the times: technology, vehicles, equipment to do their job more efficiently, good firearms, good training. I don’t know what they can improve on because I don’t know what they have at this point. I think just keeping up with the times, with technology and equipment.
Setliff: The constables that I’ve talked to are equipped pretty good. My personal opinion is a body camera. A lot of times you aren’t in front of your patrol car, so that vehicle camera is no use. When you’re knocking on doors, having that body camera technology would be beneficial but it’s very expensive.