Newest Dallas County constable tries to keep low profile

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by CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on July 13, 2010 at 7:48 PM

DALLAS — Beth Villarreal — who was elected as to clean up one the most controversial Dallas County offices vacated by Constable Jamie Cortes — is dodging questions from reporters.

She declined Tuesday to answer inquiries about her background, or to detail her plans to make changes.

It was awkward as handlers shuffled the newly-elected Precinct 5 constable through her first public appearance.

"It's a new day," Villarreal said. "I'm just taking it in stride."

Her first day on the job started with a swearing-in ceremony at Commissioners Court and ended with a short prepared statement.

"Today marks a new day for Precinct 5," Villarreal said, offering no new information about her, her experience, or her plans to overcome the scandals her precinct has seen.

"She's inexperienced," said SMU political analyst Cal Jillson. "Anyone can see that."

Jillson said he believes Villarreal's lack of information may have been intentional. He says saying nothing at all can be better than a political newcomer saying something wrong, and Villarreal is new to this.

She is fresh from her resignation Monday from the police department in the rural Ellis County town of Italy, where she spent less than three years as an unpaid volunteer officer.

Her only other law enforcement background is as a deputy constable in Dallas County for just over a year.

On Tuesday, Villarreal let campaign manager Gil Cerda deal with the questions. "She is very nervous at this point, needs time to set it in," he said.

With a budget exceeding $2 million and a staff of more than two dozen people, some say that learning curve needs to start soon.

"Hopefully she gets on her feet, because a good part of Dallas County depends on her," Jillson said.

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com

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