For almost 36 years, the longest serving sheriff in Texas , Oscar Lopez, has been at the helm of the department protecting the residents of Jim Wells County.

“I will never forget the love and support the county has given me and my family,” Lopez said. “I think it's the right time.”

It all comes to an end as he finishes his ninth term as sheriff and retires at the end of July and passes the baton to his right-hand man, Chief Deputy Louie Valadez. 

Valadez has been working with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's office for 19 years and started as a DARE officer. He received a Bachelors of Fine Arts and Science on 2001 at Texas A&M University - Kingsville with a major in human relations.

On Monday, county commissioners appointed Valadez as interim sheriff unanimously with 4-0 vote. Valadez will start his new position on Aug. 1.

“It truly is an honor to be able to fill this spot,” Valadez said. “Got some big shoes to fill.”

Valadez said the first task on his list is to review personnel and work on budget.

“I'm gonna evaluate all the personnel and see where we are and look at the budget,” he said. “We need to be able to know where we are for next year. Come Jan. 1, it has to be a smooth transition.”

Valadez said he will also review the patrol division and check their fleet of vehicles to decide which units need to be replaced with forfeiture funds.

Sheriff Lopez said Valadez was the right choice because of his knowledge with day-to-day operations of the department.

Lopez said meeting the needs of the community and having a rapport with the residents is what kept him in office.

“Treat the public like you want to be treated,” he said. “They need us 24 hours a day and we have to do what is needed when the time comes to protect everybody.”

But one of the reasons for leaving before his term is over is his family.

“I'm hoping to enjoy more of my grandchildren, great grandchildren and my grown daughters,” he said.

Lopez implemented many programs such as the “Knock and Talk” and resurrected the Crime Stoppers program during his tenure.

Lopez will leave a legacy that only a few have experienced.

“I have enjoyed every moment,” he said. “I would do it all over again.”