BELTON — Even with his race all but decided, Bell County Sheriff-elect Eddy Lange couldn’t help himself from refreshing the voting results website on a county computer.
At 7:27 p.m., Lange got his answer. When the site updated with early voting numbers, it showed the Bell County Precinct 3 Commissioner with a 16 percentage point lead over Democrat challenger Frank Hernandez.
A cheer came from Lange and the crowd of supporters surrounding him.
“There is always some apprehension,” said Lange, who has participated in 11 contested elections during his time spent as a justice of the peace and commissioner.
With the unofficial results in, Lange took nearly 58 percent of the vote. His term will begin Jan. 1.
“We did everything we were supposed to do,” he said. “We knew if we didn’t make a serious mistake we’d win.”
For Lange, he will now have to take the test to once again become a licensed peace officer from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education. His office provides two years before he must be certified.
Lange will be back in a patrol car for the first time in 28 years, when he last worked as a Temple police officer.
Hernandez used that as the chief reason why voters should not choose Lange. Hernandez, a Scott & White medical technician, spent several years at the Bell County Sheriff’s Office working in various departments.
“I wish him well. I don’t envy him,” Hernandez said. “I was hoping the voters would see my experience over his lack of experience.”
Lange said his first task once in office will be to assemble an administrative team. He said he expects several high-ranking deputies, including outgoing sheriff Dan Smith’s chief deputy, to retire. Many have already told him so.
Smith is in his 28th year as sheriff, winning seven consecutive terms. When Smith announced he would retire late last year, several jumped at the chance to be the next top county law enforcement official.
Lange’s toughest challenger throughout the race was former Bell County Jail administrator Bob Patterson. Patterson presented a well-funded challenger with Smith’s endorsement from the moment Patterson’s campaign began. Lange won his own endorsements, including state and local fraternal orders of police.
Lange again praised Patterson Tuesday for a clean campaign. Patterson lost narrowly to Lange during a primary runoff.
Included among Lange’s celebration Tuesday night was a presentation of shiny size-9 black boots emblazoned with “Bell County Sheriff” given to Lange from County Commissioner
If Hernandez has it his way, Lange will only be wearing those boots for one term. “I’ll be back,” Hernandez said. “He’ll have to watch his Ps and Qs. I’ll be watching.”