PATTERSON — The three candidates for St. Mary Parish sheriff squared off Monday evening at the Patterson Civic Center for a forum less than two months before the October election.

The forum, put on by the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce, was the first in a line of several political forums happening until October that will showcase many of the candidates who are vying for political office.

Incumbent Blaise Smith was present at the forum, which drew in residents from all over St. Mary Parish, along with current mayor of Morgan City Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi and retired Louisiana State Police Trooper Todd Pellerin.

Smith, a Centerville resident, was elected in December of last year to fill in after the retirement of former Sheriff Mark Hebert. Since then the current sheriff and former Chitimacha chief of police said he’s improved the department in several ways.

Some of those improvements, Smith said, included purchasing three dogs and securing the jail in Centerville.

“One of the most important things we did was attack the budget,” Smith said. “We were anticipating a $525,000 deficit on June 30 but instead we wound up with an $80,000 surplus. That’s because we cut wasteful spending and cut back on overtime by hiring the necessary people needed.”

Smith said he was looking forward to serving another four years and “finishing the process that we started.”

“Experience matters,” he said. “I’m the most experienced candidate here in law enforcement.”

Grizzaffi, a Morgan City resident, said he was looking to make the SMPSO more professional.

“I had a great time as mayor. Unfortunately there’s term limits,” Grizzaffi said. “I lead from the top down.

“I believe there is some need for a professional office and the citizens demand a professional office. I’m always looking for the best interest of the voters who placed me in that position.”

Grizzaffi said the sheriff was an administrative position, but he was also looking to protect law enforcement and make sure officers are provided with equipment and training and to “bring the department into the future.”

Pellerin has worked in law enforcement for 32 years as a Franklin police officer, SMPSO deputy and state trooper.

The 54-year-old Verdunville residents said he’s dedicated his life to serving St. Mary Parish, and wanted to continue that as sheriff.

“Throughout my career I’ve served in every situation imaginationable with the highest ethical standards,” Pellerin said.

Pellerin said he wanted to lead the department with integrity, character and competence.

The next forum will take Sept. 10 and include candidate for state representative District 51.

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