McNamara

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara has kept multiple campaign promises since taking office Jan. 1, from starting a drug unit to yanking inmates’ microwaves from the county jail.

But at least one major promise — getting a state peace officer’s license — remains unfulfilled more than three months into his administration.

State records show McNamara, a former longtime deputy U.S. marshal, has completed 48 hours of training toward his state license since December but has yet to finish the required testing. By law, McNamara has two years — until January 2015 — to obtain the license, but he repeatedly said on the campaign trail he planned to earn it before being sworn in.

Reached by phone Wednesday, McNamara said he had “hoped to” obtain a license by now and would do so well before the deadline. Progress slowed while he focused on winning an election and establishing his administration, he said.

“I’m in the process of finishing my classes; I’ve got a few more tests to go,” he said. “I’m kind of in the middle of that. I’ve been very busy.”

McNamara won a hard-fought Republican primary election last spring before defeating a Democratic challenger in November for the opportunity to replace retiring Sheriff Larry Lynch.

McLennan County Democratic Party Chairman David Schleicher urged McNamara to keep his campaign promise.

“I would hope all elected officials work hard to keep their promises, particularly ones voters relied on in judging qualifications for office,” Schleicher said. “We look forward to our sheriff resolving this very soon.”

Former Waco police officer Willie Tompkins, McNamara’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

McNamara first made the promise after Republican primary rival Randy Plemons, then the county’s chief sheriff’s deputy, attacked him for lacking a state peace officer’s license. McNamara repeatedly said he would earn the license at his own expense before taking office, even though he would have two years to do so.

“We’ve been extremely busy with all the law enforcement things going on, and I certainly intend to do it as soon as possible,” McNamara said Wednesday.

“That was one of my goals, and because of everything that happened during the campaign — it took almost every single minute of my time — and then organizing the new administration, I wasn’t able to do it in the time I originally intended to.”

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, the state licensing agency, allowed McNamara to bypass basic training last fall because of his past work in federal law enforcement. He must pass an abbreviated course and a standard state exam to get a license.

McNamara could face removal from office under state law if he failed to obtain a license by the deadline, but he said he wouldn’t let that happen.

“We tried too hard to get where we are now,” he said.