BUDA, Texas (STPNS) -- Being sheriff to one of Central Texas' quickest growing counties has an attraction to a number of men and women with law enforcement credentials living within its boundaries.

"I never realized that we had so much law enforcement in Hays County," said Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, who's been bombarded with calls and emails from prospective sheriff candidates and their supporters.

Hays County Commissioners are in the thick of determining who will take over for Sheriff Allen Bridges, who passed away unexpectedly a week and a half ago, until the November 2010 general election.

Chief Deputy Sherman Brodbeck, who's been serving as sheriff since the death, is Conley's pick as an appropriate long-term replacement. Brodbeck has told Conley he will serve as an Independent and will not run in November 2010 when the appointment expires.

"We're not creating a politician; we're just appointing a caretaker," Conley said, pointing out Brodbeck's 19-year career with the Hays County Sheriff's Department, where he served under three different sheriffs. Bridges' family also supports keeping Brodbeck in the post.

"I have a lot of respect for Allen Bridges, and he put Sherman in that position for a reason," Conley said.

Despite his promise not to run in 2010, Brodbeck's background is getting thoroughly vetted, causing a decades-old court case to resurface.

Brodbeck stood trial in the mid-80s facing close to 100 counts of sexual assault brought by his stepdaughter. The deadlocked jury forced a mistrial, and Blanco County District Attorney Sam Oatman did not seek a retrial after a letter from the stepdaughter said another trial would be too difficult on her and her grandmother.

"I just really don't think this is relevant to his qualifications," Conley said.

Concern that the newly-appointed sheriff come from within the department's own ranks caused Buda Patrol Captain Bo Kidd to throw his hat in the ring Friday. An endorsement from the Hays County Law Enforcement Association (HCLEA) Board was quick to follow.

"Employees overwhelmingly want the appointment to come from within the ranks of the Sheriff's Department and while there are other very qualified candidates to fill the vacancy, Capt. Bo Kidd is the candidate with the best qualifications for bringing long term stability to the Hays County Sheriff's Department in the years to come," wrote HCLEA President Steve Avalos.

HCLEA Vice President Sam Stock said about 80 corrections and patrol officers belong to the HCLEA.

Kidd, a Democrat, said he will run for sheriff in 2010 if he should get the appointment. Besides being available to answer questions on his qualifications, Kidd said he's not actively campaigning for the seat.

"My fear is that this will turn into bitter infighting," Kidd said. "This isn't an election, and I don't want this to become one."

Kidd's been with the Hays County Sheriff's Department since 1994 and has headed up the Buda Patrol division of the Sheriff's Department since 2006.

Names also being passed about as possible contenders for the appointment include former Texas Ranger Tommy Ratliff, Bridges' Democratic challenger Bill Huddleston and Hays CISD Board Member and Austin Police Department supervisor Joe Muņoz.

"I'm watching this carefully," Muņoz said. "Many Hays County residents have come to me asking that I throw my name in the hat. They feel I'm progressive and come from a community service background and a fast-paced department."