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10 Candidates Vying to Be Next Texas Prisons Chief

The next executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will lead nearly 40,000 employees, manage a $3 billion annual budget, direct more than 100 prisons and oversee the nation's busiest execution chamber.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice William G. McConnell Unit at Chase Field in Beeville in 2013.

The next executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will lead nearly 40,000 employees, manage a $3 billion annual budget, direct more than 100 prisons with nearly 150,000 inmates and oversee the nation's busiest execution chamber.

The prisons chief will take over an agency that is struggling to recruit and retain employees, maintain aging facilities and keep contraband out of inmates' hands.

Ten people – three of whom already work for TDCJ – think they're up for the task to replace retiring Executive Director Brad Livingston, who leaves in August. The Texas Board of Criminal Justice will choose from the following candidates, according to the department:

  • Bryan Collier – As TDCJ deputy executive director, Collier is second in command and assists Livingston with his duties. Collier was a clerk, correctional officer and parole officer in TDCJ before moving up the ranks, according to his biography on the agency's website. He's been with the agency for more than 30 years.
  • Michael Fithen – a former security professional who is now unemployed, Fithen was a U.S. Secret Service executive for more than 25 years before joining the private sector in 2011. Previous jobs include vice president and chief security/privacy officer with Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. and security manager with Murphy Exploration and Production, according to his LinkedIn profile.
  • Billy Humphrey – manager for UT Medical Branch-Correctional Managed Care, which provides health care for the majority of the state's inmates, according to the organization's website. Past jobs include: parole commissioner with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, senior director in the UT Medical Branch-Correctional Managed Care Office of Security Coordination, deputy director of residential services at the Texas Youth Commission (now called the Texas Juvenile Justice Department) and senior warden at the Rufus H. Duncan Geriatric Facility (an East Texas unit for elderly offenders), according to Humphrey's online resume.
  • Todd Ishee – regional director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, according to the agency's website.
  • Valerie Jones – Houston-area case manager with TDCJ for more than a year and a half, according to her LinkedIn profile. Case managers generally interview inmates to determine their needs and maintain records of their history and progress within TDCJ. 
  • Jerry McGinty – TDCJ chief financial officer. McGinty has worked for the agency for more than 20 years, according to The Texas Tribune Government Salaries Explorer. He leads the agency's business and finance division, monitoring TDCJ's budget, according to the agency's website. 
  • Adrian Nettles – attorney with Nettles Law PLLC in Bryan. He has also worked in legal and intelligence jobs in the U.S. Army and led combat-support missions in the Middle East, according to his practice's website. The Texas Legislature recognized him for his military service in 2005.
  • Sammy Ragsdale – most recently chief finance officer for the High Country Council of Governments in North Carolina, Ragsdale also is a former city administrator in Burlington, Colorado, and Clifton, Texas, and has worked as a city finance director in Fort Stockton, according to his online resume. Ragsdale also has been a former audit and compliance manager with the Texas Department of Public Safety, auditor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office of the inspector general and a master chief petty officer with the U.S. Navy.
  • Francisco Rodriguez Jr. – self employed 
  • Albert Timme III – retired

TDCJ officials said employment history was not immediately available for Rodriguez or Timme. 

Livingston has led the agency since 2004. He joined the department in 1997 as deputy director of the financial services division. In 2001, he became the chief financial officer.

During Livingston's tenure, the state's inmate population has declined, three prisons have closed and the use of solitary confinement has been cut in half, according to the department. In that same time, TDCJ has had problems including inmates sexually assaulting other inmates, correctional officers being targeted by inmates, and illegal cell phones being smuggled into prisons. The department has also been criticized for its secrecy about the state's drug supplier for executions.

Primary responsibilities from the job description include setting agency goals and policies, managing the budget, coordinating with other state entities and enforcing laws that apply to TDCJ.

A selection date for the next executive director has not been set, but the board will announce its pick during an open meeting, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said. The next scheduled board meeting is June 24.

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