“She has a heart as big as Texas”
Off to visit her brother in Austin with her two children in tow, Renette Todd received a call to come in to interview for a position as a jailer.
Almost to Victoria, she turned around after Rachel Martinez, now the jail administrator, told her that former Calhoun County Sheriff B.B. Browning wanted to interview her.
“I was just in a T-shirt and shorts, but I turned around, threatened the kids to behave, and interviewed with B.B. I got hired and then was told to fill out the application,” said Todd.
That is how her 21-year career with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office began.
Todd retired from the force on Friday, Jan. 15. Calhoun County Sheriff Bobbie Vickery described it as bittersweet, but said he had no doubt she would still be involved in the community because “that’s the type of person she is.”
A retirement party was last Thursday, and well-wishers turned out to say farewell, including Browning and law enforcement officers from the Texas Rangers on down.
“She has seen the best and the worst,” said Calhoun County Justice of the Peace, District 5, Nancy Pomykal. “She has a heart as big as Texas, and it has been an extreme honor to work with Renette Todd.”
At the reception, Todd described Browning as a father figure, encouraging her all along the way. She also expressed her appreciation for the people she had worked with and the friends she had made along her way up the ladder at the Sheriff’s Office.
Todd started in August 1999 at the jail. “I was living in Seadrift, and Rachel Martinez said it would be the perfect job; a high dollar babysitting job. About a week later, she called and said B.B. wanted an interview.” Todd had worked as a Head Start teacher and at Inteplast before joining law enforcement.
She went to night school for the police academy after hearing the “great stories from the deputies. I wanted to do that also,” she said.
She went on patrol in 2001 as the first black female deputy, but her career was nearly derailed by a wreck on the Lavaca Bay Causeway that kept her out eight months.
“The wreck totally changed my life. I was always a big girl, but I played softball four days a week, but after the wreck, my life changed. It was a depressing time,” said Todd, who still suffers from back issues related to the accident.
She was in her on-duty vehicle and stopped on the causeway due to a guy trying to change a tire on the causeway. “I was stopped with the lights going, but a truck topped the hill, and I could not get over, and he ran right into me. He died 10 days later from neck and back injuries. I thank God that I survived it,” she said.
When she returned to duty, she was doing civil work when then Investigator Chris Barker left, and she was offered the position by Browning.
“I am a quick learner, and I am always learning,” she said.
Brown Santa helped offset the effects of the accident.
Todd started the program in 2011 when she saw other counties doing it and thought, “Why can’t we?”
The first year, 25 children were provided with Christmas, and last year more than 100 kids from 80 families were assisted and more than 2,000 toys were given out.
“Kids have to deal with things when their parents are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Todd. “And when Christmas comes around, and you have to choose whether to pay the rent or buy a gift, I wanted to take that burden off and help make that choice easier.”
Todd said she enjoyed working with all the agencies in Calhoun County and across the state. “When I started the job, B.B. and Tiney were in the community, at some function, always doing for the community,” she said. “I wanted to show people we care, so that’s how I got involved in the schools, with The Harbor. It’s something I wanted to do. I have a servant’s heart, and I wanted to serve.”
During her time, she got to meet former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, received the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault Harold Cottle Award, and was named Advocate of the Year and Officer of the Year through the Rotary Club.
Now her time will be spent with her husband of 14 years, Johnny Todd, and her grandchildren.
“He’s put up with all the craziness, coming home late or not coming home at all, so now I’m fixing to bug him. I’m deprogramming myself from all the craziness, then we’re going to travel a bit – nothing major because of COVID – and we’re going to just enjoy life. I want to enjoy life while I can. My kids are grown up, so I’m focusing on me, my husband, and my grandchildren.”
She has two daughters, Renita Brigham of Corpus Christi and Natasha Toliver of Victoria.
She’s also been interviewed on three True Crime TV shows, Fatal Vows, Love Up In Flames on Investigation Discovery, Snapped about Janice Bonnell on Oxygen, and a Twisted Sisters episode called Old River Road, and also on Investigation Discovery.
The Twisted Sisters episode, in her daughter’s words, made her “legit famous.”
“Khloe Kardashian was the executive producer of Twisted Sisters, and she put a photo on her Instagram. I was seen by millions of people. I didn’t know, but my oldest daughter sent the photo and I’m like, what! My daughter said I was legit famous now.”
A new chapter is opening in her life and as she looks back, she said she had no regrets.
“I had a wonderful run, and now I’m going to enjoy it. I can’t believe I’ve turned in my guns, my vehicle, and they did the Last Call for me. It’s sad, but I guess I made it. I set a goal, and I did the best I could to accomplish it, and I think I did a pretty good job of that,” she said.