St. Helena Parish Sheriff Nathaniel “Nat” Williams Sr. cruised into a fourth term in office Saturday, denying a challenge from former deputy Frank Ricard Sr.
Williams won with 83 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial returns.
Williams pledged to continue ongoing drug enforcement and community policing efforts. Ricard had said he’d focus on finding funds to beef up the ranks of deputies and build a new jail to avoid having to send inmates to neighboring parishes.
Of the parish’s 8,489 registered voters, 55 percent are black and 44 percent are white. Both Williams and Ricard are African-American and Democrats.
Williams, 63, joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1986. He worked his way up the ranks and took over as the rural parish’s top cop in 2007, when then-Sheriff Ronald “Gun” Ficklin became the third holder of that office to land in federal prison.
Williams listed several accomplishments: improvements to the parish jail, acquiring computer software to streamline tax collections and strengthening partnerships with other law enforcement agencies.
He credited community-oriented programs for an overall decrease in crime on his watch and said he wants to expand initiatives to educate youth about the dangers of drugs.
The Sheriff’s Office, including both its civil and criminal branches, has a staff of about 60, down from closer to 70 when Williams became sheriff; he blamed a decline in video poker revenue, a key funding source.
Ricard, who worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 18 years, argued that the office is understaffed not because of lack of money, but rather due to Williams’ administrative style.
Ricard said he was running in part because of the 2007 shooting death of his son, Myron Hughes, a victim of a violent crime.
Candidate: Nathaniel “Nat” Williams Sr.
Occupation: Sheriff of St. Helena Parish