Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt told county commissioners Tuesday morning that his office is working to regroup after losing a valued team member to cancer.
Watt said he has promoted Harvey Smitherman from lieutenant to the captain’s position held by Rickey Wheeler prior to his death in December from cancer. The sheriff said the move is designed to “help us move forward and pick up things and just move on.”
Watt said he also hired Heath Wester to fill the position Smitherman left to accept the captain’s spot. Wester, Watt said, worked for GCSO back in the 1990s before he left to take a job in the Metroplex “to make some real money.” Wester retired from his job in the Metroplex and is now back at GCSO.
“He is a major case investigator who will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Sheriff’s Office,” Watt said of Wester.
In a phone conversation later in the day, Watt said Wester will be a valuable asset to the department.
“I think the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office is incredibly fortunate to have a person of Lt. Wester’s reputation,” Watt said. “I also feel very strongly that Capt. Smitherman will do Rickey proud. He will carry on in the same manner that Rickey would have.”
Smitherman said he was very close friends with Wheeler.
“I made sergeant because of Rickey’s guidance,” Smitherman said, adding Wheeler was also instrumental in his rise to lieutenant.
Smitherman said it has been hard to get the bump to the captain’s position in this way but he looks forward to continuing the work that Wheeler and Watt started. Before joining GCSO in 2005, Smitherman was with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Smitherman said he is just working to get acclimated to having more people under his command than he did as a lieutenant. He said he has always heard that a person is only as good as the people he manages and he is fortunate to have such a great group of people to command.
Wester said he first went to work at GCSO in 1992 and stayed until 1996 before taking a position with Grand Prairie. He worked that job until he retired, but he always stayed in touch with Wheeler, who was his partner when he was with GCSO.
“Rickey had been trying to work on me coming home for quite a while,” the 1987 Pottsboro High School graduate said.
Wester said no one knew then that Wheeler wouldn’t make it to see his friend return, but that loss didn’t change Wester’s mind about returning.
“This is where I began my career and this is where I wanted to finish it,” he said.
Retirement from law enforcement permanently, Wester said, is still a good long way down the road. He said he and his wife discussed the move north with their children and the whole family was on board with the move.
“It is a bittersweet moment to come home,” Wester said, noting that the excitement at being back home hasn’t really worn off yet.
Wester said he is looking forward to helping Watt and Chief Deputy Tony Bennie accomplish their goals to have a top-notch criminal investigation division at the GCSO.