Austin may seem distant to residents of North Texas, but local sheriffs are trying to help bridge that gap by connecting with legislators.

Somervell County Sheriff Alan West was one of 120 sheriffs from around Texas who traveled to Austin on Feb. 28 to visit with members of the 85th Legislature.

It was an effort to “express their interest in what legislative actions are taken, show their support of lawmakers and exhibit a strong unity” among the sheriffs, according to Steve Westbrook, executive director of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas.

West said that’s the first line of communication with Austin for sheriffs.

“That got us where we need to be, in touch with our legislative body,” West said Monday.

West said he left for Austin early that morning and returned to Glen Rose later that night. He and Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds were among those who met with State Sen. Brian Birdwell, who resides in Granbury and represents District 22.

Westbrook said in a press release that, “Resolutions were passed in both the House and Senate recognizing the sheriffs and the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas. Sheriffs spent the remainder of the day meeting with their individual Senators and Representatives to discuss pending legislation and provide input on bills that affect the citizens of the State of Texas. The sheriffs feel this contact is crucial to providing meaningful law enforcement in their counties.

West said that one key topic discussed involved was unfunded state mandates that can lay a heavy financial burden on local governing entities.

Other key discussions included funding for local MHA/MHMR community and state hospital health services; jail reform; Texas border security; revenue caps that restrict the ability of sheriffs to provide basic law enforcement services.