After 16 years as Assumption Parish sheriff, Mike Waguespack retired suddenly Wednesday, saying he has accepted a job with a private firm.

Waguespack, who is a certified public accountant, ran for his first term in office in 2000 on the promise to run the Sheriff’s Office like a business.

Waguespack said Thursday that he resigned after he was offered an “opportunity in the private sector that will require my full focus. I don’t want to cheat the citizens of Assumption.”

Waguespack said Chief Criminal Deputy Bruce Prejean will serve as interim sheriff until Leland Falcon, who defeated Waguespack at the polls in October, takes office July 1.

Waguespack, 50, will be the chief financial officer of an industrial contracting firm, RES Contractors in Plattenville.

“It’s just good timing,” Waguespack said of the opportunity to return full time to the business world.

He said he is looking forward to helping to “grow the company, continue to help people and put people to work.”

Waguespack, who was president of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association for 2014-15, said as a retired sheriff he will continue to serve on various committees of the association.

Looking back over his law enforcement career, Waguespack said “it was a very busy 16 years” marked in particular by a number of natural and man-made disasters.

“We had big, first-time events,” Waguespack said. “We were battle-tested in my tenure.”

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav demanded Sheriff’s Office resources as did a natural gas leak in Grand Bayou on Christmas Day in 2003 that forced close to 30 families from their homes, Waguespack said.

In 2010, there was a blowout of a 7,200-feet deep oil and gas well in Paincourtville, Waguespack said.

In 2012, the 31-acre sinkhole in Bayou Corne opened up when there was an underground breach in a Texas Brine salt cavern.

“I’ll miss the challenges that you face every day — every day is a different day in the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

He said the main change he’s seen in law enforcement over 16 years has been “to the negative, as far as the respect law enforcement gets.”

“It’s really a tough job. I pray these guys can continue to be successful and stay safe,” Waguespack said.

Falcon retired as a major with the State Police to run for the sheriff’s position in 2015.

Leland said the transition “has been very smooth. It’s a good transition, and I expect it to continue.”

The 110 full- and part-time employees in the Sheriff’s Office have had a chance to re-apply for their positions, and those interviews should be completed on Monday, Falcon said.