Assumption Parish sheriff takes reins of state Sheriff’s Association _lowres

Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack

Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack was sworn in Tuesday as the 69th president of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and promised that the voices of the state’s smaller sheriff’s offices will be heard during his tenure.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso, the outgoing association president, banged the gavel one last time after Waguespack was sworn in.

“Every voice can be heard and that’s the theme we want to kind of echo as we want to engage more small parishes, whether it’s Tensas Parish or St. Helena,” Waguespack said during the ceremony at the association’s offices in downtown Baton Rouge.

Waguespack said Assumption Parish has 24,000 people and his office does not have the finances that larger sheriff’s offices in the state have.

“So it’s tough for small parishes like us to have our voice heard, but the association … allows every voice to be heard, whether you’re a small parish or a large parish,” Waguespack said.

The group represents the state’s 64 sheriffs and more than 14,000 deputies, the association website says.

Waguespack, a Democrat, said the group will have decisions to make during the next major election cycle when the organization weighs in on Congressional seats in 2014 and the open Louisiana governor’s race in 2015.

He said that state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, the brother of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, has already announced he is running for governor. The group has made endorsements in a variety of races around the state, including supporting Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“I think the membership simply will have to decide who we want to support,” Waguespack said.

He said association members could decide to bring such questions to a vote.

Waguespack, a certified public accountant who has served on the association’s executive and finance committees and was the group’s first vice president last year, takes office after a legislative session where lawmakers debated liberalizing state marijuana laws.

But sheriffs and district attorneys stalled the attempts to lessen penalties for simple marijuana possession and create a legal framework to dispense medical marijuana, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Congress should act first.

Waguespack, a four-term sheriff, reiterated that view Tuesday, saying without change at the federal level, Louisiana sheriffs would have to enforce conflicting state and federal laws. He said pharmaceutical companies are working on cannabis-based prescription drugs for medical use.

“We just can’t have dirty marijuana floating around on streets for medical use. We’re just going to have problems with it,” he said.

Waguespack, who is the second Assumption Parish sheriff to be president of the group that was started in 1938, was sworn in by Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John L. Weimer, a family friend.

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and James “Jimmy” LeBlanc, acting chief of operations for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, were among those on hand for the ceremony as well as Waguespack’s family.