Scott Police Chief Chad Leger has officially kicked off his race for Lafayette Parish sheriff.

Leger, 48, made his campaign announcement Wednesday at Lafayette’s Acadian Village, about two weeks after Sheriff Mike Neustrom said he will not seek re-election and less than a month after Leger began his fourth term as chief.

“I have been preparing for this possibility for the last 26 years,” said Leger, a Scott native who on Jan. 5 informally announced his candidacy on Facebook.

About 70 people were present inside Fernand Stutes Grocery to support Leger’s bid, including Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux and Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou, both of whom worked with Leger at the Sheriff’s Office.

Decou said he and Leger are longtime friends who share similar management styles.

“We’re all about professional policing,” Decou said. “Chad is an upstanding individual who will do well.”

After Leger applauded Neustrom’s successes as sheriff — which include earning accreditation for the office and building the new public safety complex on Willow Street — he said he wants to continue the sheriff’s work in developing alternatives to incarceration and in encouraging continuing education for deputies.

But he added the next sheriff should have more experience in the field.

“I believe a sheriff who knows what it’s like to serve in uniform and who has the experience in a range of law enforcement roles is important to ensuring that best practices are used in the field, and that both officers and the public are protected,” Leger said.

Neustrom was elected as sheriff in 2000 and won three elections since, and was police director from 1970-1974 at what was then the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He earned a doctorate in criminal justice, teaching at both the university and Acadiana Law Enforcement Training Academy.

Leger is a 26-year law enforcement professional who spent 14 years at the Sheriff’s Office under Neustrom and his predecessor, Donald Breaux. He’s worked as a patrol officer and in the narcotics, SWAT and criminal investigations divisions, and he was also a resource officer for the Lafayette Parish School System.

Leger left the Sheriff’s Office in 2002 to campaign for police chief in Scott, serving in that position since 2003. He’ll continue to maintain his role as chief during his campaign, he said.

Although no one else has confirmed intentions to join the race, Maj. Art LeBreton, Neustrom’s chief deputy since March 2004 and a Sheriff’s Office employee for more than three decades, has said he has not made a decision on whether to run.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft, who’s been employed by the department for 38 years, on Wednesday ended any speculation he might seek the sheriff’s post.

“I feel my career will end where I started, at the Lafayette Police Department,” Craft said in an emailed statement.

The sheriff’s primary election is Oct. 24. Qualifying for candidates is Sept. 8-10.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.