The District 4 Neighborhood Watch meeting drew a larger than usual crowd Thursday night at the Sliman Theater as more than 100 people showed up to hear what candidates in three runoff contests on the Nov. 16 ballot had to say.
New Iberia City Councilwoman Deidre Ledbetter emceed the program, introducing candidates and keeping the program on track.
Each candidate was given 10 minutes to make their pitch to the gathered voters and differentiate themselves from their opponent.
The first race on the card featured New Iberia City Marshal candidates Brett Lang and Tony Migues. Migues went first, extolling his military experience and management experience as the city of New Iberia’s parks supervisor. He also noted his law enforcement experience as a fraud investigator with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, where he received his peace officer standards and training (POST) certification, which led to his work with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Lang listed his experience as a former deputy marshal in New Iberia, under former Marshal Vic Delcambre, as well as his progress through the ranks of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. He also cited his success with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, where he took over a service that was adrift and found funding and volunteers to get the program running again.
Both candidates said they would improve technology in the office (“Can you believe there is not a computer in the Marshal’s Office?” Migues asked incredulously), make the office more productive in its primary duties in order to work through a backlog of 3,000 warrants that have not been issued, and find creative ways to finance the office.
“Currently there is no budget,” Lang said. “The city of New Iberia provided something like $10,000 to hold it over until the new marshal can take office, but we’ve got to get creative.”
The two candidates for the District 48 state representative seat, businessman Beau Beaullieu and sugar cane farmer Ricky Gonsoulin, also agreed there were issues at the state level that were going to require creativity to solve.
Beaullieu said his focus would be the creation of new jobs, primarily through making the state more receptive to business.
“It is all about jobs, in Iberia, in Acadiana, in Louisiana,” Beaullieu said.
Gonsoulin also promoted easing the challenges on industry.
“Raising taxes is easy,” Gonsoulin said. “It takes guts to make cuts.”
Both candidates agreed that tort reform would be essential to attracting new industry to the region, along with a reform of the state’s tax code and its infrastructure.
Beaullieu said the key to making those things happen is to stop the outmigration of families from the state and attracting industry from other regions.
“If you want to bring in more revenue, you don’t do it by raising the tax rate,” Beaullieu said. “You do it by increasing the tax base.”
Gonsoulin used that idea to take a shot at Beaullieu during his presentation.
“If you want to grow the economy and add jobs, what about the businesses that are already here?” Gonsoulin asked.
Only one candidate showed up to represent the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s race. Ledbetter said that candidate Tommy Romero had a previous engagement and was not able to make the forum, leaving the floor open for his challenger, former Louisiana State Trooper Murphy Meyers.
Meyers said that if elected he would begin updating the way the sheriff’s office operates.
“First, I would increase the number of deputies on patrol,” Meyers said. “Right now, the IPSO has the same number of deputies on patrol in the same number of patrol areas as we did in 1996,” Meyers said. “The areas have changed. It used to be you had a house every mile or so, but people live out in the country now. We need more deputies on patrol and smaller patrol areas for them to cover.”
He also proposed eliminating some of the state inmates being kept in the Iberia Parish Jail so one of the pods could be used for juvenile detentions instead.
“When this jail was built, it was one of only six in the nation designed to hold juvenile and adult inmates,” he said. “Right now, we have no place to put juveniles charged with a crime. We have to pay between $250 and $260 day to place them in another parish. If we use that pod to house our juvenile detainees, we could also share that space with St. Martin and Vermilion.”
By his estimation, Meyers said allowing other parishes to pay for their juvenile prisoners in Iberia Parish, the jail could bring in more than $800,000 annually.
Early voting for the November general election begins on Nov. 2. The election itself will be held on Nov. 16.