MOFFAT — Residents and supporters of the Moffat Fire Department gathered Tuesday night to listen — and talk to — two Bell County elected officials over freshly made hamburgers.
The gathering, a monthly event used to raise money for the community’s volunteer fire department, saw more than 50 local residents attend and listen to the speakers.
The talk with Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange and County Attorney Jim Nichols was moderated by County Commissioner Bill Schumann. Both speakers said they were there to talk about what they do for the county and answer questions that the residents may have.
Lange and Nichols talked about the current state of Bell County as it related to their jobs. Before taking questions from residents, both Nichols and Lange spent some time introducing themselves to the room and explaining their part in local government.
“I found out campaigning that pretty much 90 percent of people out there don’t know what the county attorney does, and the 10 percent that do we have on probation,” Nichols said. “I am kind of proud of Bell County because other counties in the area come around to see how we do things. (The county attorney’s office) wears a lot of hats and we have to know a lot of different types of law.”
Lange talked the most to the crowd of residents, but not before reverting to his roots as an auctioneer and auctioning off two Sheriff’s Department items for the fundraiser. These items, which were auctioned off for $110, were a book of sheriff department history and a sheriff’s department challenge coin.
The sheriff answered residents’ questions about anything from the threat of local gangs in the county to the recent focus on preventing human trafficking.
“It is very expensive for me to put together (a sex trafficking) operation, and we have done four,” Lange said. “I did not really realize that we have such as issue, as big as it is, with human trafficking until I really got into this. Instead of going after the girls and the frontline people, we are trying to go after the ones behind the scenes.”
Nichols, on the other hand, talked about his office in regards to issues such as truancy. He explained the current system for handling the truancy in the county and what will change later this year.
House Bill 452 — signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 2 and effective Sept. 1 — gives the Bell County Commissioners Court a unique option to deal with truancy by appointing so-called “masters” to oversee truancy cases. The appointee will have the same training as a justice of the peace and be assigned to a specific school district.
“No one else in the state — that I’m aware of — has approached truancy from this manner,” state Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, previously told the Telegram.
Both the sheriff and the county attorney encouraged residents to come and talk to them with any question or issue that they may have.
Lange stayed behind after the talk so that he could answer more questions from residents.