Ascension Council approves $132 million budget Thursday; amendments are expected _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley

GONZALES — Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley on Friday named Lt. Col. Bobby Webre as his chief criminal deputy and Maj. Ward Webb as chief operations officer minutes after the sheriff himself was sworn in for his sixth consecutive term in office.

With the appointments, Webre and Webb, friends since high school who rose up in the department together, are now the No. 2 and No. 3 officials in the Sheriff’s Office, respectively.

Webre, 53, a colonel with his appointment, has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 31 years and replaces former Chief Deputy Tony Bacala.

Bacala, who was on hand Friday, retired last year and then successfully ran for the state House of Representatives in the fall.

Webb, 51, who is a lieutenant colonel with his appointment, has worked for the sheriff for 28 years and has headed patrol operations.

“When we promote people, we promote them in the right way. We promote them formally, and the reason we promote them formally is because we want them to appreciate and recognize the awesome responsibility that they have, to do things they’ve been called upon to do and their designation,” Wiley told an audience of deputies, judges, other public officials and family members at the Gonzales Civic Center.

Before Friday, both men had shared in Bacala’s duties after the longtime chief deputy stepped down, but Wiley had not named anyone to replace Bacala formally until Friday. As chief deputy, Webre, by law, would serve as sheriff if Wiley ever is unable to do so.

Webre is formerly chief of criminal operations for Wiley and had served as the parish jail warden for 16 years.

Wiley, who was sworn in by Senior Judge Alvin Turner Jr. of the 23rd Judicial District Court, said he plans to let his top staff take on more responsibilities, so he can spend more time with his family. Wiley, 65, added that he was not making “a retirement speech.”

“I’ve got a lot of fire in the belly. I got a lot more things to do, but I quite frankly am going to let a lot more people do them a little bit,” said Wiley, who ran unopposed in the Oct. 24 primary.

In a later interview, Webre said it’s been years of hard work in the department but it’s still hard to believe he would end up as the No. 2 person in the Sheriff’s Office, saying he is humbled with the appointment.

“I look forward to working with a great company of young men and women,” he said.

Webb was similarly humbled and said he hopes he can live up to expectations of his co-workers.

“I hope I don’t disappoint,” he said.

Both men said the sheriff did not tell them about their appointments until earlier this week.

Webb said he had taken on many of Bacala’s civil duties while Webre had many of the criminal and special projects duties.

Webre had been seen by many observers as the likely candidate to replace Bacala. Wiley said after the ceremony that both men are veterans who have “proven their worth” and that if you polled deputies about the two appointments, they would say, “Yeah, I get it. Certainly that’s a great decision.”

Wiley said Webb will serve as an extension of Webre and oversee the sheriff’s civil and criminal divisions.

In addition to law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office runs the parish jail, handles tax collections and civil processing, and operates as an officer of the courts, handling bailiff and security duties.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.