This week, Neal put on the HCSO patch for the last time and wrapped up any outstanding business in readiness for his retirement, which begins next week.
A retirement reception was held Wednesday to allow other members of the legal community to stop by, share favorite stories and send him off with thanks. Neal was also presented with a plaque thanking him “for dedicated and devoted service to the citizens of Hopkins County” and a $100 Lowe’s gift card. He was awarded his master peace officer pin, which signifies Neal has attained the highest level a Texas peace officer can currently achieve through Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education based on their years of service, hours of training and education. Neal noted he also has attained master jailer status as well.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I’m going to miss the people here. This has been part of my life all these years. It’s going to be hard not to get up, put on the uniform and come here. I’ve enjoyed all the years. These folks are part of my family here,” Neal said. “I”d like to have stayed a little longer, but that’s not always possible. I’m taking another opportunity,” Neal said.
Born and raised in Sulphur Bluff, Neal started out in farming. But, in January of 1989 he began what became a 24-year career with Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office as a jailer. He worked in the jail for less than two years before getting his basic peace officer certification and moving to the patrol division as a deputy. He worked nights nearly the entire six years he was in patrol, aside from a short period of time in 1996.
In 1997, Sheriff Butch Adams sent Neal to school so he could learn all of the ins and outs of being a civil process deputy.
“I had the choice of take over the jail or civil when Butch took over in 1997. I chose civil. I like to be out with people and it’s a job you do that with,” Neal said.
“Bobby took over civil. Before that, all of us shared those duties for a long time. He really took a lot of pressure off patrol so we can concentrate on other things. It was a BIG help when Bobby took over civil,” HCSO Capt. Henry Turner noted.
Neal has represented the county as the sheriff’s office’s civil process officer ever since. And, his job continued to grow over the years. If it involved civil process or paperwork in Hopkins County, you can almost bet Neal was involved somewhere along the way.
He’s known to go that extra length to find people to serve paperwork, not putting it off or pawning it off on others, but making the contacts and researching to locate who and what was needed for each particular instance.
Neal’s served attachments on court orders, dispositions, divorce papers, restraining and protective orders, tax suits and warrants, many different kinds of writs and subpoenas. His work in tax cases often involve seizure of property; tax sales for land and houses; bond forfeitures for large cases from the county clerk; he also serves bondsmen if “they are a no show in court;” civil cases such as credit card suits, and more.
No matter what task, Neal said he kept one thing in mind, “always give respect no matter who they are.” You likely will encounter the same people again somewhere down the line and may even have to serve them with paperwork again if there continue to be problems. Sometimes, no matter how inconvenient the case may be, it’s important to remember the person may simply be having a hard time, and it may be through no fault of their own, Neal explained.
“We all have ups and downs in our lives. Things happen. You’ve got to do the job professionally and treat people with courtesy and respect. That’s what I do,” Neal said.
He noted that if there’s paperwork that may not be within his scope to lend direct aid, he tries to guild the person toward the path that will best help them. If they’ve had property seized, he tries to help them find a way to get back on the right track so they can get it back.
“He’s been very dedicated,” said Rickey Morgan, HCSO chief deputy. “We’re going to miss him. He did the sheriff’s office a service as an officer for civil process. He’s really dedicated to civil process service.”
“Never disrespect anybody,” Neal said. “I’ve had a lot thank me for helping them, directing them. Respect goes a long way.”
One example Neal recalls that was particularly fulfilling involved a man he’d had to serve with divorce papers. When the man saw him about three years later, he approached Neal. While the deputy couldn’t directly recall his name, he did remember his face and vaguely recalled the case.
“He said, ‘Thank you, you saved my marriage,’” Neal recalled.
He also will make a point to help guide people through the various processes, telling them where to go to start payment plans and other helpful advice.
“That’s what we’re here for. We wear that badge and have a duty to protect AND serve,” Neal said.
In addition to serving the community as a civil process deputy, Neal has also served the community by working security at games and other after-school activities at county school districts — including 22 years with Como-Pickton. He also has been a stew cook for Relay For Life for a number of years
“He’s been a good friend to all of us. We’re going to miss him. He’s like a family member,” said Morgan.
“We’ve always worked good together,” said Turner. “He’s a good coworker and good friend. We’ve had a lot of good times.”
“You never look forward to someone’s retirement from any place. I think when you do, you like it to be in the right circumstances. I’m happy the way things are turning out for Bobby,” Turner said.
“It’s been good to work with him. Civil is moving to the constables. I know Bobby has another opportunity and offer congrats to him on it,” said Deputy Alvin Jordan.
Neal said although he has ended this chapter of his career with his retirement from Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office, he’s does not plan to retire from public service. He’s been offered another opportunity to serve and expects to begin in his new role starting next week.
And, as a life-time Sulphur Bluff resident, he’ll still be around to spend time with the many friends he’s made in the last few decades. He’ll just have a little more time to enjoy his family, which includes wife, Susan Neal; two daughters and sons-in-law, Pamela and John Parish and Patricia and Matt Byrd; and five grandchildren, Dylan Byrd, Makayla Parish, Hannah Byrd, Braydon Byrd and Jaxon Parish
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