PORT ALLEN — West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes said his leadership and track record through two terms in office had earned him the respect of residents and the law enforcement community.

Cazes, a Democrat, said that if he’s elected to a third term, he would continue the work he’s done in keeping the public safe.

“You have to look at law enforcement as one big family,” Cazes said. “My guys and I have worked hard and we’ve worked together to protect the public and get serious criminals off the street.”

Since taking office eight years ago, Cazes said, he’s expanded the parish’s work release program — rehabilitating thousands of prisoners scheduled to be released back into society — and created a crime victim’s assistance program.

Cazes, 55, also said he’s proud of the Interstate Drug Interdiction program he began to combat drug trafficking and the inmate food program that allows prisoners to grow their own food, offsetting costs previously passed on to taxpayers.

“In eight years, I’ve focused on self-generated revenues in my office,” he said. “Instead of raising taxes, we work within our budget and I’ve never run a deficit.”

Cazes said his election as president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association this year and his role as one of the organizers of a multiparish task force called “Joint Task Force-7,” reflects the reputation he has built as a leader in law enforcement.

“JTF-7 is a program I helped organize with other sheriffs where we now have the capabilities in place to protect against and respond to terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage throughout the area,” Cazes said.

“I want to complete the work I’ve started and continue my efforts to run a proactive rather than reactive sheriff’s department,” Cazes said.

Challenger Troy A. Maranto, also a Democrat, said his 25 years of combined experience in the U.S. Army and as a West Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy, a Port Allen police officer and a martial arts instructor give him the qualities needed in a sheriff.

“Leadership, honesty and integrity are the things people can expect from me,” Maranto said.

If elected sheriff, Maranto said, he would upgrade Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures, install a fair pay scale and create a system where only the most deserving deputies are promoted into leadership roles through proven testing methods.

Maranto, 41, further said the Sheriff’s Office needs to be more transparent.

“We need an updated record-keeping system where public documents can easily be made available to all citizens,” he said.

Another one of Maranto’s priorities would be to focus on the parish’s illegal drug trade.

“As I’m walking the streets, these are the things people are telling me needs to done,” he said. “They’re telling me we have an extensive drug problem in West Baton Rouge.”

Maranto said that upon taking office, he would organize a parishwide Neighborhood Watch program and create anti-bullying initiatives for students.

“You can’t treat this job like you’re the CEO of a company,” Maranto said. “I will be out in the field with the deputies listening to people. That’s the only way you can see what the community needs.”

Early voting in the Oct. 22 primary election runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Sundays starting this Saturday and extending through Saturday, Oct. 15.