Police Chief candidates meet citizens
By Kyle Mooty
Saturday morning’s meet and greet of the final two candidates for Lockhart Police Chief had men that want to involve the community and its residents in keeping the town safe.
Gary Williamson, Police Chief of El Campo, and Michael Fratus, Assistant Chief of Police at Port Arthur, met with those who attended the event held at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library’s City Council quarters. The two men also gave five-minute introductions to everyone on hand and then met separately for 30 minutes with the City Council.
Fretus and Williamson were introduced as the finalists by Max Westbrook and Bruce Mills of Public Safety Solutions. The list had been narrowed to five candidates a day earlier before settling on Fretus and Williamson as the semifinalists.
“We can’t say that we’re community policing without stressing it,” Fratus said. “We have to show what it looks like. I think that’s the only way to be successful. So, if chosen to be your police chief, I think you’ll find evidence that I work harder than anybody else to make sure that our philosophy and our concepts of community policing is spread throughout the department.
“I have no doubt that the City of Lockhart Police Department has some of the best men and women working for them and I truly look forward to making it the best I can be.”
Williamson added, “Some of the projects I had was to try to build more community engagement. I always thought community policing could be better. I’ve done Coffee with the Cops, but I wanted more feedback from the city. After all, it’s not my police department, it’s the citizens. So, I started townhall meetings to get feedback from each district because each district is a little different. The issues that affect one district aren’t the same that affects the other.
“For years we had collected data but it was just sitting there. But we want to use that data and see where the hotspots were and having officers spend just a little more time in that area to help reduce crime.”
Fretus said his father had been in law enforcement and he had followed in his footsteps.
“I have 20 years of experience in law enforcement but I think as a son of a police officer some of that time should count as well,” Fratus said. “I have gone through every level of supervision in the City of Port Arthur. I’ve been in supervision since 2009. For the past six years I’ve been deputy chief. I took advantage of some of the few positive things that came out of Covid and went back to school online. After I had gotten my bachelors, I said one day I’m gonna go back and get my Master’s. This gave me the opportunity to make that a reality. So, back in May I earned my Master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
“My wife and I always said we want to work toward retirement and it always came back to this area. My wife is a huge fan of the Hill Country. It’s what we call where I live the Pretty Place to live. As the discussions went forward, I said, why do we have to wait to enjoy all of this. That being said, I have a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old so there are going to be a lot of years before I’m going to be able to retire.”
Williamson grew up in Galveston, and after a short stint in sales, he entered the police academy and said he got hooked in law enforcement. He and his wife have two sons, 23 and 21.
“I started my career at the Austin airport, for two years,” Williamson said. “I made the decision to go to El Campo. I started as a patrol officer, then to corporal, sergeant, investigations, lieutenant, and assistant chief for 10 years. While I was assistant chief, I was asked to be more or less the emergency management coordinator for the city. Two years ago, the chief retired and I was promoted.”
Fratus said that he had to try barbecue while in town and joked that Lockhart the unnamed restaurant needed to be investigate because “They’re hiding dinosaurs somewhere because that beef rib was the biggest rib I’ve ever had in my life. They say everything is bigger in Texas, well, Lockhart barbecue is living up to that.”