A retired Marine and Vietnam War veteran is among the five candidates running for the Democratic nomination for Precinct 5 constable.
This is Dionicio "Don" Ysassi's second attempt for public office. He ran unsuccessfully for Precinct 5 constable against Johnny Calderon in 1992, after Ysassi retired from the U.S. Marine Corps.
Ysassi, 58, retired from the Corps in 1988 after 20 years of service, achieving the rank of gunnery sergeant. He was a military policeman for eight years and served as Marine recruiter based in Kingsville for three years.
"So I have the skills and the leadership to lead this department," Ysassi said. "I know for a fact I won't have trouble doing the job that's required of the constable."
After retiring from the Marines, Ysassi and his family, including three children of high school age at the time, returned to his hometown of Robstown.
"After 20 years, you've seen everything in the Marine Corps," he said. "There's nothing they can show you anymore, so I decided to retire."
Ysassi joined the Marines during his senior year at Robstown High School in 1968, and completed his GED in the military.
He played football and baseball for Robstown High School from 1965-1967, earning the eye of Major League scouts as he pitched three-no-hitters, including a no-hitter against South San Antonio, which had a 56-game winning streak at the time.
Ysassi earned All-District honors in baseball two years and in football in his junior year. But he said it was the Marine Corps that opened up the world to him.
"During that time, you had to make a decision about staying here in Robstown or doing something else," he said. "Because of the challenges the Marine Corps had, I was attracted to it. I was in good shape and just got out of sports and the Marine Corps had everything I could see that I could do good in."
Ysassi said he volunteered in 1968 knowing he probably would be sent to Southeast Asia as the Vietnam War reached a pinnacle.
"I knew that I was going to war, but it's different talking about it than actually being there," he said. "It's not an experience I would want anyone to go through."
Ultimately, Ysassi would spend 13 months in Vietnam, experiencing combat on a few occasions. He said he lost two friends and saw other friends get injured in combat.
"I spent 13 months in Vietnam. I was an infantryman and a fire team leader for six months, and two months I was a squad leader," Ysassi recalled, adding he doesn't talk much about his wartime service. "We had some bad experiences where people got killed and stuff like that. Most of the time we spent out in the field. When we came back to the base, it was just to get a little rest and relaxation for a few days and we would go out again."
Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Ysassi has been a truancy officer at Seale Junior High School for 17 years. He said if elected constable he would crack down on truant students wandering the streets.
"Right now, we've got a lot of students walking the streets in the day," he said. "Me, as a truant officer, I can only go so far. All I can do is file charges with the justice of the peace. It takes it time to get into court and all that. Sometimes the warrant is there, but it is not being served. It seems like every time we need people picked up, they never find them.
"If I get elected and I get called, I'm going to go out there and pick up students. They're just walking the streets, somebody has to do something with it. I would call the parents and find out why the student is out of school and warn them."
Ysassi said another goal, if elected, is more patrolling.
"One of the things I'd like to accomplish is more patrolling in the rural areas, especially Banquete and Agua Dulce," he said. "You accomplish that by repositioning constables in certain areas so certain people are there during the days so they can immediately respond to it, rather than coming from Robstown which can take sometimes 20 minutes."
Precinct 5 encompasses 320 square miles, bordered on the west by Jim Wells County, FM 1694 on the east, San Patricio County to the north, and Driscoll city limits on the south. The constable's office has 13 full-time officers and serves as the principal policing agency for Agua Dulce, Banquete and Bluntzer, while also covering Robstown.
Precinct 5 also has a substation in Agua Dulce.
"But a lot of people say nobody is there, nobody shows up," Ysassi said. "Right now, I think they have a hiring problem. They have officers in the past that have been let go because of certain things that have happened there."
Ysassi said drugs and robberies are two of the biggest criminal issues in the precinct.
"On the drug problem, you need to coordinate with the city police in Robstown," he said. "I believe when you have too many students out of school, I believe some of them are committing some of the crimes here in Robstown.
"It's one of those things. We need law enforcement. We've got the police department, we've got the constable, but we've still got problems with law enforcement, especially at the schools."
Ysassi said he would improve the constable's office with enhanced training for constables.
"It's time for a big change because I believe the other people in the race, with the exception of Rolando Martinez, the other candidates have had a chance to make a change and I think it's not getting any better," Ysassi said.
"We still have the same problems that we've had in the past. They've been there. They've had their opportunity, but then people complain that it's not being done like it's supposed to. I'm hoping the voters of Robstown, Banquete and Agua Dulce and parts of 624 and Bluntzer will give me the opportunity to serve them."
Ysassi's military honors and law enforcement training are extensive. He has been awarded a Combat Action Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam Civic Action Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation, Expeditionary Medal, Arctic Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Over Sea Deployment Ribbon and National Defense Medal. He also held a national top-secret security clearance while in the Marines.
Ysassi also has 44 credit hours toward an associate's degree in criminal justice. He has attended law enforcement schools in the military for Corrections and Prisoner Escort, Civil Disturbances and Disasters, and Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Counseling. He also attended the Texas Department of Public Safety's Concealed Handgun Instructor School and was a concealed handgun instructor.
Ysassi is the son of the late Cecilia and Dionicio Ysassi II. He attended Del Mar College and Galvan College in Gilroy, Calif., studying law enforcement.
He has been married to Sandra Gonzalez Ysassi for 38 years. The couple has four adult children and five grandchildren, including two that attend Robstown schools.
Ysassi is a member of St. Anthony Catholic Church and a former Little League coach.