Five-term Lafayette City Marshal Earl “Nickey” Picard on Monday threw his political arms around a former employee who quit quietly in January to challenge his former boss, eventually besting him in the November election and forcing Picard into retirement.

In endorsing Brian Pope, who finished first among four city marshal candidates in the primary election, Picard, 83, acknowledged he was doing something that on election night he said he would not: endorse one of the two candidates who thwarted his quest for a sixth term.

“(Then) I got to thinking about this,” Picard said. “… I think (the office) is in pretty good shape. I want it to stay that way.”

Pope, a former deputy city marshal who rose to the rank of captain, finished first Nov. 30 with 37 percent of the vote. In second place was Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kip Judice, who polled 29 percent to secure a spot in the Dec. 6 runoff election. Picard finished third with 24 percent, and retired lawman Joseph Cormier pulled 10 percent.

“I do have some big shoes to fill,” Pope said, after he and Picard hugged.

Picard and Pope made the announcement in Picard’s office, four days after the two met privately there to talk for the first time since Pope went on vacation in January and didn’t return.

The conversation, less than an hour long, was about the future of the office, Picard said.

“Brian convinced me that not much is going to change,” Picard said.

Picard later added, “I’m going to be watching him.”

Judice, who was told via cellphone about the endorsement, said he wondered what was said or promised before Picard agreed to give his endorsement.

“What really motivated Mr. Picard to change his mind?” Judice asked.

Lafayette’s city marshal is in charge of 17 deputy marshals who wear badges and carry guns, an accredited police force that also employs three staff members. The deputies’ main tasks are serving subpoenas for City Court and picking up fugitives on warrants issued by Lafayette’s two city judges.

Judice has accused Pope of being a deadbeat dad, and also of being a lawman who has problems following laws that spell out the rules for campaign sign restrictions and reporting campaign contributions to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Judice and Pope, both 49, have been in law enforcement for decades — Judice for 29 years and Pope for 22 years. Judice is registered under “no party” and Pope is a Republican.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Dec. 6, a Saturday, and close at 8 p.m. Early voting started this past Saturday and ends Saturday. Early votes cannot be cast on Thursday, which is Thanksgiving Day, or Friday, which is also a state holiday.