ECTOR COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson unexpectedly withdrew his bid for re-election Monday night, sparking questions, rumors and concern for the future of the Sheriff's Office.
"By the way, I'm not dying," he told NewsWest 9 with a laugh. "I guess a lot of people are surprised [I've decided to withdraw]."
The fourth-term sheriff said it was one of the "toughest" decisions he's made during his 38 years with the department. He had filed paperwork last week to run for a fifth term.
"I really went back and forth on it for a long time," Donaldson said. "There are just some things I'd like to do... in retirement... This is the right thing for me and for Ector County."
Sheriff's deputies told NewsWest 9 colleagues were "shocked" by his last-minute change of heart.
"I don't want to feel like I'm letting them down," Donaldson said. "That's the tough part... But I feel like we've accomplished a lot here, so I can go out feeling good about how I left this office."
Career highlights include a push to purchase much-needed equipment for the Sheriff's Office and improvements at the Ector County Detention Center.
The jail had been out of compliance with state standards for about a year when Donaldson was first elected into office. Within a month, he said, he had made the necessary changes to bring the facility back into compliance.
"We still have a lot to do... and not running an election will mean [being able to focus on] our work here," Donaldson told NewsWest 9.
The sheriff endorsed his No. 3 Inspector, Michael Wayne Griffis, to run in his place on the Republican ticket.
Joe Commander, chief investigator for the Ector County District Attorney's Office, also filed to run for the position.