After more than 31 years of service with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Deputy Don Neyland is retiring. As he isn’t one for fanfare and shuns the limelight, Neyland was surprised with a retirement party in his honor on Wednesday at the Jack Hartel Building in Liberty.
Walking through the doors of the facility, under the guise that he was attending a meeting with county officials, Neyland was greeted by cheers and clapping from dozens of his peers in law enforcement, family members and friends. Deputies and officers from several agencies, Texas Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens and state troopers all turned out for the celebration with a few taking turns at the podium to discuss Neyland’s impact on their lives and to share funny stories from the past.
During those 31 years, Neyland worked for four different Liberty County sheriffs – O.J. Stewart, Greg Arthur, Henry Patterson and Bobby Rader. Of the four, only Rader and Arthur were able to attend the retirement celebration.
Rader called Neyland a “book of knowledge” and an inspiration to the men and women who have worked under his supervision at the sheriff’s office.
“I have no clue what we are going to do without him. I have him on speed dial and I know where he lives,” Rader told Bluebonnet News. “He has been a big asset to the department and he will be greatly missed.”
Neyland’s career in law enforcement began in 1989 after graduating from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Police Academy. For 2 and a half years, he served as a patrol deputy for Daisetta Police Department, in the community where he still lives today. After a stint for Daisetta PD, he joined the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, where he has held positions as patrol deputy, patrol sergeant, Criminal Investigation Division captain and chief deputy. He has completed 2,872 hours of law enforcement training, including the subjects of Child Abuse Prevention and Investigation, Crime Scene Investigation, Major Crimes Investigation and Dangerous Drug Investigations.
In those early years of his career, Neyland worked closely with Texas Ranger Major Grover “Frank” Huff, Company A, who was the Texas Ranger assigned to Liberty County. Speaking at the retirement party, Huff called Neyland a “pillar of the community,” adding that “Don was always someone you could count on.”
“I would trust him with anything – my life and my money. You can have a discussion with him, and if it is a private discussion, you never hear it come back to you, I promise,” said Huff. “We are coming up on 200 years for the Texas Rangers. Next year is our 200-year anniversary. One of the traditions from the old-time Rangers is an old saying that is intended to be the highest compliment, which is ‘He’ll do to ride the river with.'”
Huff presented Neyland with a Mexican Cinco Peso. These coins, dating back to 1947-1948, are used to make Texas Ranger badges.
“Every Ranger since the 1960s have worn a badge made from this coin. It’s an old Ranger tradition that if you know someone who is deserving, you can pass one of these coins on to them. Don, I would like for you to have this,” Huff said, presenting the coin to Neyland.
Neyland has no big plans for retirement except to spend more time reading about Texas history and enjoying John Wayne movies, and to spend time with his wife, Melissa, and their children and grandchildren.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone of you. It has been an honor and privilege. For the deputies who go through Daisetta, I will still see you speeding and know who to call,” he said with a laugh.
Capt. Billy Knox will be the next chief deputy for the sheriff’s office.
“Chief Neyland and I have worked hard to train Knox and bring him up. If we can cut out some of his hunting trips and his FBI Academy Association meetings, then he can handle it,” said Sheriff Rader, jokingly. “Billy is a good pick for chief deputy. He’s a real asset to the department.”
With Knox taking over as chief deputy, that leaves a position as captain of the LCSO Criminal Investigative Division. Rader said three LSCO employees have applied for the position and interviews will begin on Thursday.