LAFAYETTE — At age 82, Lafayette City Marshal Earl “Nickey” Picard is seeking another six-year term for the office he’s commanded since 1984.
Why not? he asks. He still has his wits, and he has the fire to go to work every morning.
“If I felt that I couldn’t do the job, if I was not up to do it six more years, I wouldn’t run,” Picard said.
So far, Picard’s facing two challengers — relative youngsters Kip Judice and Brian Pope, both 49 and also veteran lawmen.
Picard said he suspects the other two candidates are running because they have doubts about his ability to do the job. By the time the election rolls around in November, he’ll be 83. By the end of the next six-year term, he’ll be 89.
“I’m disappointed for their reasons. I just hope they tell the people why they’re running,” Picard said last week.
Judice and Pope denied Picard’s age was the dominant reason they’re running, but it is related. While stopping short of saying Picard was too old, both said it’s time for new blood.
Judice, a 29-year veteran of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he’s running to “move Lafayette forward.”
“I consider (Picard) a law enforcement icon,” he said. “I’m not running against Mr. Picard. I’m running for city marshal.”
Pope said he became a deputy marshal 20 years ago. Pope said he was a city marshal-in-training for 10 years, a captain who was third in charge.
In 2008, Picard told him it would be his last term, Pope said, and he dropped his plans to run for the office in 2008 “out of respect for Picard.”
“So I had my sights set on 2014,” Pope said.
In 2013, it became apparent that Picard had no plans to retire, Pope said. Pope retired quietly in January, during a vacation, to start building a campaign structure.
All three men are career law officers who seek to lead the police force that carries out the orders of Lafayette City Court, such as hauling to court scofflaws who miss court dates for crimes like drinking alcohol and driving impaired.
All three offer credentials that spill off a résumé.
- Picard in 1953 became a Louisiana State Police trooper before he became city marshal. During his 30 years in office, the number of armed deputies has doubled to around 20. He’s also upgraded the technology at the office and started a successful program on Acadiana Open Channel that airs photos and details about criminals wanted in City Court. Picard’s also a poet, whose work has been published in law enforcement periodicals.
- Judice in almost 30 years at the Sheriff’s Office has been in charge of crime scene investigations, narcotics task force chief, commander of the patrol division, evidence chief and chief civil deputy, and he has been the public information officer for the last 31/2 years. Judice, who is on a leave of absence from the Sheriff’s Office, said he would release his campaign platform Tuesday.
- Pope was a sheriff’s deputy for two to three years before becoming a deputy marshal 20 years ago. While a captain, Pope produced the Holding Accountable program on Acadiana Open Channel and was in charge of keeping the office’s accreditations up to date.
The election is slated for Nov. 4, with a runoff election, if needed, Dec. 6.
Picard has mostly been unopposed in his re-election bids over the years, beating one challenger — former Lafayette Police Department Capt. James Cormier — twice by large margins in 1996 and in 2008.
And Picard has played hardball politics before.
Cormier filed a federal defamation suit against Picard in the 2008 campaign. In the months leading up to the election, Picard allegedly leaked a confidential police file containing information damaging to Cormier to a television reporter.
A federal magistrate judge in 2013 ruled that Picard did not defame Cormier.
Upon learning earlier this year that he would face opposition for the seat, Picard continued a habit he’s practiced since he was young. He put pen to paper and composed a 10-line poem, with the last lines reading:
“ There are no issues at this stage
“So they will try to use my age
“With nothing else that they can say
“I will debate them any day
“In the end I’m sure they’ll see
“The city marshal will be me.”