Happy Spring to you all! We survived the coldest winter East Texas has experienced in all of my lifetime. We’re seeing the negative results of the sub-zero temps with many plants, trees and flowers that have failed to bloom back this spring. It’s sad to see, but it’s the cycle of nature. We’ve had a beautiful spring so far, and I’m sure the dog days of East Texas summer are right around the corner.

At the Sheriff’s Office, we’ve been going through a transition phase with several changes in positions as a result of my upcoming retirement. As of Friday May 14, I will close this chapter of my life and retire from full-time law enforcement. There are very capable individuals who are moving up in the ranks as a result. I’m sure many of you know the upcoming changes, but I’ll touch on those so everyone is informed of the changes.

Captain Sarah Fields will be filling the position of Sheriff until a special election will be held at mid-term. I know that Captain Fields has full intentions on running for election at that point, and I give her my full support!

Captain Fields has been in law enforcement for 30-plus years, and she has worked in some capacity in each division of this department. Many people probably don’t know the extensive background she has, but she is more than qualified to fill the role of Sheriff of Panola County, and I know she will do a great job! She has been transitioning into this new role over the past three months, working alongside myself, Chief Ivy and the other administrative staff at the Sheriff’s Office. She is ready, and I have full confidence in her ability to serve as your Sheriff.

Chief Jeff Ivy was promoted to his current position upon the retirement of Chief John DePresca. He has done an outstanding job as the Chief of the department, and he will remain in his position of Chief Deputy.

Sgt. Adam Jones has been supervising the criminal investigation division since Sarah Fields’ promotion to Captain. Adam will be promoting to the position of Captain, filling the role of third in command of the department. He is very qualified and has already been transitioning into this position. I know he, Chief Ivy, and Sheriff Fields will make great leaders for this department.

I have not taken this decision making process lightly, because I know an agency is only as good as its leadership, and I know this agency will be in very capable hands.

Some other changes taking place is the promotion of Deputy Hollie Mojica from civil process assistant to the position of criminal investigations. She will be assisting the criminal investigators in their daily activities. Hollie is very eager and passionate about her job. I know she has a great career ahead of her.

David Gray has also recently returned to the department following his retirement as Justice of the Peace. David brings many valuable years of law enforcement experience, especially in criminal investigations. He is joining the criminal investigations team, and I know he’ll be a great mentor for the others he works with. Several other changes in dispatch, patrol and at the detention center are also happening over the next few weeks and months, under the direction of Sheriff Fields.

I’ll close with these few remarks about my career and what follows as I enter retirement. I have had a blessed career, serving all of my adult life in law enforcement in Panola County. I have worked with some of the best people on earth, and I mean that! We have laughed together, we have cried together and everything in between. But the most important thing is, we done it TOGETHER!

This is a family, a bond like no other! I will miss it I know, but I have served my time, and it’s time for me to move on to something else. There’s been a lot of changes and accomplishments along the way, and I leave hoping I’ve maybe left it just a little better than I found it. That should be our goal in anything we do.

I will keep my peace officer commission by serving as a reserve Deputy Constable for Constable Bryan Murff. I’ll still be in and out of the Sheriff’s Office, and maybe I’ll see some of you during my travels. I’m a blessed man to have served the citizens of this county for the past 29 years. I’ll cherish the memories and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I would like to thank all of those who have been mentors to me during the progression of my career. I would also like to thank all of my friends and coworkers who have been such a great support and encouragement, especially during the rough patches we’ve encountered over the years.

I would like to thank this community for believing in me, trusting me and supporting me, even when outsiders expressed their own random, obtuse and benighted opinions of tragic cases our office has been tasked to work. Your support is appreciated more than you know!

I want to thank the voters for your support with your overwhelming voice at the polls, even though I ran unopposed my entire tenure.

I want to thank the local news outlets for teaming with us to report the happenings of our community and the PCSO activities. We have all tried to report what we could, when we could, but as you know, for the protection of the cases we work, we can’t always report everything everyone wants to know.

I want to thank my family, especially my wife, my son and my daughter. I am most grateful not only for their support, but for always being understanding when I couldn’t be at ballgames, parties, missing Christmas and other events, and for the times I had to suddenly leave in the middle of something important that we were doing together. You guys are the reason for all I do!

In closing, I want to thank my Savior Jesus Christ for saving my soul, and for providing a hedge of protection around me and my family during my career. I am among all men am most truly blessed! It been a privilege serving you!

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Kevin Lake is sheriff of Panola County.