Two men are challenging incumbent Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack in the Oct. 22 election.
Farrell Gros, a former Assumption deputy who has military experience, and Ray Nicholas, of Belle Rose, a former two-term Assumption Parish School Board member, are seeking the post Waguespack has held since 2000.
Waguespack, 46, of Napoleonville, unseated incumbent Sheriff Thomas Mabile in October 1999 and is seeking a fourth term.
The three candidates are Democrats.
In campaign literature, Waguespack touts his aggressive pursuit of the illegal drug trade, his community outreach, his ability to attract grants and the planned expansion of the 108-bed jail in Napoleonville.
“Your Sheriff’s Office continues to make great strides toward fulfilling our mission of keeping Assumption Parish safe and fostering an environment where businesses can prosper, providing jobs and economic opportunities to local people,” Waguespack said in a statement.
Between 2007 and 2010, FBI crime data show some statistical categories, such as violent crimes and murders, had fallen or remained flat while property crimes and burglaries have increased.
But the last four years have also kept the Sheriff’s Office in the headlines.
Last year, a lieutenant in charge of the sheriff’s evidence vault was arrested on hundreds of counts of malfeasance in office for tampering with drug evidence as well as drug possession. He pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Waguespack said he has hired a retired State Police officer to oversee the vault and purchased new evidence software used by the State Police. Fewer than 20 drug cases had to be dismissed due to the evidence tampering, he said.
Gros, who was shifted from his job as jail warden and later resigned, has not seized on the problems within the Sheriff’s Office. He said he does not feel it is wise to raise issues the public already knows.
“So I don’t have a political agenda. I am staying that way. I am focused on the people of the parish,” he said.
Gros, 50, of Labadieville, is retired from the U.S. Army National Guard, worked as a reserve deputy under former Sheriff Mabile starting in 1992 and began working full time under Waguespack in 2000.
Gros has instituted a door-to-door campaign, riding a Smith and Wesson police bicycle. He has promised to be a full-time sheriff who is personally visible in the schools. He said he also wants to create a martial arts program for youths.
“The drug use is rising, and our kids need more attention. I think the sheriff needs to be more involved with the community,” he said.
Gros has also alleged that the Sheriff’s Office no longer has a narcotics division and said he would reinstitute one.
“From what I see and what I know of, we don’t have a working Narcotics Division,” he said.
Waguespack disputed that, saying that he has three full-time agents who work with other departments and as many as six people working undercover at a given time. He pointed to the “Get a Real Job Operation” of early January that led to the arrest of 64 people on drug counts.
He noted his office has added resource officers to every middle and high school in the parish and most have training in Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
Waguespack, who has interests in an accounting firm, a mortgage company and other businesses, said he remains a 24-hour, seven days a week sheriff.
Waguespack said he divested half his interests in the accounting firm when he was first elected and has relinquished more since then. He said his partners and other employees do the bulk of the work.
He said he does work on weekends and after hours, and checks in during early morning hours, especially during tax season.
Nicholas was not available for comment late Monday.
According to a statement published in the Bayou Journal, the former teacher recently worked in a program with former prison inmates in New Orleans and was employed a year under Waguespack as a juvenile officer in 2001.
This story was updated on Oct. 21, 2011, to correct city of residence for candidate Farrell Gros who lives in Labadieville, not Pierre Part.