Calhoun sheriff wins top Texas award
Looking out at the audience, Sheriff B.B. Browning saw a sea of white Stetsons as sheriffs from across the state clapped their hands.
The tall, broad-shouldered man could feel his eyes getting wet as he stood there. In her chair at the table, wife Tiney Browning's own eyes were filling, she remembers.
After more than 40 years in law enforcement, Browning was presented with the Tom Tellepsen Award, an award given to an outstanding sheriff at the Annual Banquet of the Sheriffs' Association of Texas. This is the top award in the field, and the winners are nominated and voted on by other sheriffs and members of the association. To determine the winner, peers and colleagues of the man or woman who has shown themselves to be an outstanding sheriff not only nominate and vote, they have to write letters telling a board why this person should win.
As Browning and his wife sat in the crowded banquet hall in Dallas three weeks ago, he listened and he heard himself described, as colleagues told his story.
"I think that's you," his wife told him.
Browning has been working in law enforcement since he was appointed constable in 1974. That was just the beginning. He had a natural aptitude for the work, a way with people that made them comfortable and he showed them respect.
Soon, friends were encouraging him to run for sheriff, but he waited until he felt he knew enough to ask people to vote for him to wear the badge of Calhoun County sheriff. When he was ready, he ran and was elected. That was 16 years ago. He has now chosen not to run for another term and will hang up his badge in January.
"I'm going to miss the devil out of it," he said, glancing around his office, but he noted that winning the Tim Tellepsen Award was icing on the cake of a career he has relished.
"Personal communication is so important, and that has never changed. You've got to converse with the people you meet, to use your personality. I always tell my people to be nice, always, and I think that's been important in the community," he said.
Sitting at the banquet, Browning knew he had been nominated, but suddenly he realized they were talking about him, that he had won. He walked to the stage to be recognized by his peers, the people who know about the good days and bad days. The days where you can climb into bed knowing a shipment of drugs will never hit the streets or your community. The days where you remember how it felt to watch a mother's face fall as you stand in her doorway and tell her that the son she's waiting up for won't ever be coming home. The days that make the job worth all of the work and the ones that make it harder than those outside the job can possibly imagine.
A slew of letters supporting Browning came in to the association, urging the committee to pick him as the winner, which he has since gotten to read them. Letters by Chief Deputy Mark Daigle, saying that Browning took the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office from the Stone Age to the future when he took over 15 years ago. A letter by investigator Renette Todd saying how much his leadership and respect have meant to her, how hard she has been inspired to work to make sure she never disappointed him. A letter from his wife, telling the board about the wonderful man who is her husband.
When he walked on the stage, Steve Westbrook, the executive director of the organization and a longtime friend, was there applauding along with everyone else.
"You could just see it on his face when his name was called and he came up. He's a very humble man, but you could see the excitement on his face. It gave me a good feeling seeing him come up there," Westbrook said.
All of the letters talked about how he made a difference, but standing on stage, winning an award that is a capstone of a distinguished career, Browning knew why he had won, and he shared his secret with the audience.
"My policy is always to gather good people around you, the Lord and my wife. Gather those good people and they'll do it all," Browning said.