Leading by Example 7

IN HIS DUAL ROLES AS LAWMAN AND FATHER TO NINE, 
TARRANT COUNTY’S SHERIFF BILL WAYBOURN PROVIDES AN EXAMPLE OF HONOR.

A community needs a sheriff that reflects its values. Of course, sheriffs work to uphold the law and order that makes possible the community’s framework. But it’s as the visible paragons of justice that they have perhaps the greatest impact. In addition to their role as enforcer, sheriffs serve as examples of honor and justice for the entire community. The importance of this figure makes it no wonder that so many sheriffs — from Seth Bullock to Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp — have passed into lore as legends. Tarrant County has had its own share of stellar lawmen over the years. Now you can add another name to that list: Sheriff Bill Waybourn, newly elected in November and sworn in earlier this year.

Sheriff Waybourn, the longtime police chief for Dalworthington Gardens, has outlined an honorable agenda for his official capacities. He has promised to never “get comfortable” in his role, and has pursued a fair and compassionate stance that nevertheless remains steadfast in its enforcement of the law. As the first new sheriff Tarrant County has had in 16 years, Waybourn brings a breath of fresh air to his office. Sheriff Waybourn defeated his principal opponent, Dee Anderson, in a contentious Republican primary earlier in 2016.

When Waybourn took the oath of office, state Senator Brian Birdwell praised the new sheriff and his wife together. The strength and integrity of this union undoubtedly supports the sheriff in his official duties. It also factors into his home life, one in which Sheriff Waybourn lives the moral example that he upholds as sheriff. A devout Christian and steadfast man of God, Waybourn, along with his wife, have felt called to adopt seven children from unfortunate situations.

It’s certainly impossible to weigh the comparative importance of Sheriff Waybourn’s two principal roles. On the one hand, he’s charged with leading and protecting a massive community of people. On the other, he’s responsible for the care and upbringing of his children. We collectively celebrate Father’s Day to honor one of the most important people in each of our lives. In honor of this year’s Father’s Day, we took the time to talk to Sheriff Waybourn, not as a lawman, but as a dad. The Sheriff adopted his seven children with one purpose in mind: to do right in what he saw as divinely inspired moments.

“From a faith-based position, my wife and I felt like we were called to adopt,” says Sheriff Waybourn. “We stepped out on faith in every one of those situations. They were circumstances where we weren’t out looking to adopt children. It just kind of presented itself in a miraculous fashion. We felt like from a Christian standpoint that that was exactly what we needed to do.”

The best fathers approach their role from this very standpoint. A noble calling, one in which the earthly man can honor the divine example. Fathers create, nurture, and protect. When times get tough, you can always rely on dear old dad. Why? Most dads would say because supporting and protecting their children is never a choice. It’s just nature. In the moments when Sheriff Waybourn and his wife, Laura, felt called to intervene on the behalf of their adopted children, he became their father even before the official process began.

Whether they realize it or not, fathers provide an example in every action they take around their children. When asked how he strives to serve his own children in this manner, the sheriff responds:

“Hopefully I just do some of the things that my parents did for me. I hope that I model values that are worthy of my faith. I hope that I’ve demonstrated values such as honor and integrity. I’ve certainly fallen short in my span of time, but those are the things that I consider important and I hope they saw some of that.”

The values that one adopts almost always come from the example of the parents. Sheriff Waybourn’s children range from the ages of 2 to 36, so the values that he absorbed from his own parents have cast a long shadow indeed. The values that Sheriff Waybourn personally honors have been apparent in his public life. Tarrant County’s new sheriff has been variously described as kind, humble, a righteous man, a man of honor, and a Christian. He is known to truly care for others, in a manner that manifests even towards inmates. As he passes men and women along into the justice system, Waybourn is known to promise he’ll pray for them. This foundation of faith plays an indispensable part in his life, and began, along with other honorable lessons, in his childhood.

“From my parents, the big thing I can say I got from them was to model strong values,” says Sheriff Waybourn. “This is crucial to parenting. Modeling strong values is probably the most important thing, that and discipline.”

Fatherhood changes a man. For someone who has raised nine children, Sheriff Waybourn has undoubtedly changed a lot over the years. The values that he holds true have not changed, however, and provide a guiding light in all the sheriff’s affairs. As for what he has learned, the sheriff has one word: patience.

“I would say that I believe fatherhood is a lesson in patience,” says Sheriff Waybourn. “It has provided what I would consider the most exhilarating moments of my life. I want to remember the blessings that those children have brought to my home and heart.”

For all the pains of fatherhood, the responsibility and dedication, most fathers would instantly agree: they wouldn’t trade it for anything. Nothing can compete with the sense of achievement, and the breathtaking bounty of love that fatherhood brings.

“I think of the exhilarating moment when my daughter was born, seeing her for the first time,” says Sheriff Waybourn. “It was like a great story that I finally got to meet. With my other children there have been equally exhilarating moments. Sometimes just seeing them do simple things, and sometimes the great accomplishments. At that point, I’m just being thankful.”

There’s truly no better way to describe the joy of fatherhood than the sheriff’s own words: a great story that you get to meet. When we raise children, we get to share in the story of a life outside our own. There can truly be no greater blessing than that. A wise young father-to-be, on the cusp of joining his own story, would do well to honor the sheriff’s words of advice.

“Just love your wife,” says Sheriff Waybourn. “Create a great marriage and follow Christ, and the rest will fall into place.”