Stephenville resident Kent Howell has announced his bid for sheriff, setting up a March showdown between his former boss and current sheriff Matt Coates.

Howell, 38, made the announcement via email to the Empire-Tribune on Thursday morning. 

In his official statement about his intentions to run for the office as a Republican, Howell said his goal has always included running for sheriff.   

“Those who know me best, know serving as sheriff of Erath County has always been my professional career goal,” Howell said. “Being elected sheriff is not about the title, the money, nor the status some may think the position carries, but rather for the simple fact that I am fully committed to this community. I consider the residents of Erath County my family and I want to serve and protect each and every one of them.”

Howell has worked as a law enforcement officer in Erath County for almost 13 years and has served as a volunteer for the Erath County Fire Department for 14.

He recently lost his job at the sheriff’s office where he had worked as a deputy for a little more than two years.

When asked about the reason behind his departure, Howell said, “While I no longer work for the sheriff’s office, I have an inside perspective and a firm understanding of the leadership changes that need to be made for the betterment of our community. I am committed to running a clean campaign and am happy to answer any additional questions voters might have.” 

Howell grew up in Erath County and graduated from Stephenville High School in 2000.

“Erath County has been our family home for several generations with deeply planted roots which I want to cultivate for our future and yours. As a result, serving others and investing in this community has become one of my personal passions.” 

The E-T contacted Coates for a statement about Howell’s announcement and his own plans for re-election. He confirmed that he will seek another term and will make an official announcement about his re-election bid in the coming weeks. 

“Our system of government works best when candidates offer themselves for public service and give voters a contrasting choice at the ballot box,” Coates said. “I welcome and encourage qualified candidates to enter the race and my campaign team looks forward to a spirited election season that ultimately offers voters a choice and opportunity to review the record I will run on.”

Howell and his wife, Julie, an assistant professor and director at Tarleton State University, have four children ranging in age from 9 to 22. 

“We are involved in multiple civic and community organizations and spend much of our time giving back to this community,” Howell said. “My family and I have prayed about this decision and we feel this is the time to take on this challenge. 

“I am 100 percent invested in this campaign and am looking forward to meeting as many voters as possible over the next several months.”

The Republican Party Primary will be held March 3, 2020.