There will be a new sheriff in town come 2020, and Wednesday night five candidates took to the stage at the Sliman Theater to convince local voters that they’re the best man (or woman) for the job.
Roberta Boudreaux, Joe LeBlanc, Fernest “Pacman” Martin, Murphy Meyers and Tommy Romero were present at the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce’s to field questions about their personal history and crime in Iberia Parish less than two months before the October election. Candidate Clinton “Bubba” Sweeney did not attend.
Questions for the forum were solicited from the public and reviewed by an unbiased committee, according to the chamber.
Boudreaux, who ran against current Sheriff Louis Ackal and is a former warden for the Iberia Parish Jail, said her experience at the jail sets her apart from the rest of the candidates.
The Lydia resident said managing the budget and retaining deputies are some of the biggest challenges that will be facing the IPSO in the next four years, and attempted to make the case that she was the best person to manage those issues.
“I think it’s important that the next sheriff needs to be a leader and manager of the budget,” Boudreaux said. “If you don’t have the finances and the budget you can’t provide services.”
LeBlanc, who formerly served as an Iberia Parish deputy under Romo Romero’s administration, said this was his seventh time running for sheriff.
“One thing you can’t say about Joe, he’s not a quitter,” he joked.
LeBlanc sold himself as a people person who would be able to communicate with the local community as well as bring law enforcement experience to the role as sheriff. When asked about how to improve operations at the Iberia Parish Jail, LeBlanc suggested bringing back the jail’s garden and cattle to feed the inmates.
Martin called himself the only candidate at the table who was already elected within a law enforcement district in Iberia Parish. As the Jeanerette City Marshal and interim Jeanerette chief of police, Martin said he could bring that experience as a sheriff.
When the panel was asked about the sheriff’s future relationship with municipal police departments, Martin said he already has a relationship with other departments and was even able to help the New Iberia Police Department name a suspect after he was asked for help.
Meyers is a former deputy of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office who served for more than 20 years with Louisiana State Police, and only retired in February of this year.
The former LSP officer said his work as a patrolman also put him in a supervisory capacity managing budget. Increased training for deputies, including sensitivity and diversity training, is on his agenda if elected sheriff, as it was for several other candidates.
“It’s just not right that we can send deputies to a training period and all it costs is gas,” Murphy said.
Romero, who also worked with Louisiana State Police in the narcotics division, said that crime in Iberia was largely due to the drug trade and his experience was needed for a change. Most notably, Romero advocated for intelligence-led policing that would allow the IPSO to predict where crime was and be stationed at those locations.
The panel largely agreed on most of the issues, which included passing a balanced budget, working on improving the overcrowded Iberia Parish Jail and establishing programs where inmates could find jobs to increase the chance they won’t commit more crimes.
“We’ve turned that place into a housing facility and a babysitting service,” Boudreaux said about the jail.
Retaining IPSO deputies who can better serve the communities that they work was a much talked about issue, as was lessening the amount of inmates and operating within the budget.
The forum closed out a three-day slate of forums from the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, which also included candidates for city marshal, parish president and state representative.