Iberia Parish will have a new sheriff for the first time since 2008.
In a closely-fought race, Tommy Romero outlasted Murphy Meyers to take a 52 percent to 48 percent victory Saturday night. With a 49.6 percent turnout — high for a runoff election — Romero garnered 12,148 votes to Meyers’ 11,096.
Although Romero led throughout the evening, it wasn’t apparent that he would have an easy victory. At one point the state Secretary of State website showed the pair virtually deadlocked, with fewer than 100 votes between them. But as the precincts turned in their votes, Romero pulled away.
“First, I want to thank my Lord and Saviour,” Romero said as he took the dais before a cheering crowd in the ballroom of the Gouguenheim on Main Street in New Iberia. He then called his mother up, gave her a kiss, then launched into a laundry list of thanks and shout outs.
Because the sheriff’s office operates on the state’s fiscal year, Romero will not take office until July 1.
Romero and Meyers came into the race for sheriff with similar backgrounds. Both served full careers with the Louisiana State Police before moving on to detail work in Baton Rouge. Romero, however, came into the campaign with a war chest, which he used to outspend Meyers, going as far as to bring basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal to New Iberia for a campaign event prior to the primary election.
A long-time undercover narcotics officer, Romero said he will make targeting drug traffic in the parish a primary goal.
“We need to get a hold on the drug issue in Iberia Parish,” Romero said, eliciting more cheers from the already pumped-up crowd of supporters.
Romero also ran through a list of other proposals that he plans to focus on once he is in office.
“We need to work on private-public partnerships to ease the tax burden on the citizens of Iberia Parish,” he said. “We will use inmate labor to help fix the things that can be fixed in our parish.”
Romero was a shift lieutenant with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office from 1978 to 1983 as he started his law enforcement career. He moved on to the Louisiana State Police, where he served as a sergeant for 33 years. From 2016 to 2018, he worked as an investigator and security team leader with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office.
Come this summer, Romero will be taking over a sheriff’s office that is in transition. After a federal investigation that resulted in nine officers serving time for various offenses and Ackal being acquitted on four federal charges, the creation of the New Iberia Police Department cut a $6 million dollar hole in the office’s budget.
It’s a challenge he said he is ready for.
“I believe, after 38 years in the profession, that there is still a lot of work to be done and differences to be made,” Romero said.