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CROWDED SHERIFF’S RACE KICKS OFF EARLY

Terrebonne Parish is assured to swear in a new sheriff in July, now that Sheriff Jerry Larpenter has chosen not to seek another term.
A large pool of candidates are already lining up to potentially take the position — including some who have held key roles in Larpenter’s administration.
Three have announced their intentions at press-time in mid-April and others are potentially going to file in the coming months to chase the position that Larpenter is retiring from after multiple terms and a lengthy career.
The election is not until the fall, but the race is expected to be highly competitive.
In his campaign material, Blayne Bergeron has boasted that with the bulk of his career at other agencies, he will be in a good position to operate the Sheriff’s Office “without fear or favor.”
Bergeron, a former agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who has worked closely with local law enforcement officers and administrators, has also earned local recognition as a member of a popular band called “Bandit.” While the bulk of Bergeron’s experience has been with the federal government he is also no stranger to local law enforcement. He has worked for the Sheriff’s Office as well as the Nicholls State University Police. Since retiring from the public sector, Bergeron has worked as the facility security officer for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, LOOP.
The primary goal of his administration, Bergeron said, would be for officers to “Protect and Serve” all citizens of Terrebonne with efficiency and integrity.
“I know there’s a lot of work to be done, and together with your help we can make Terrebonne Parish a safer community,” Bergeron said.
The first candidate to announce that he would seek the top cop spot is Mike Solet, who retired from the TPSO after 38 years of service. At the time he left, Solet was serving as Larpenter’s administrative deputy, but his career at the agency was mostly anything but desk-related. He has held numerous certifications for radar operation, motorcycle safety and emergency vehicle extraction, working both in uniform and civilian clothes, as a detective and also a patrol supervisor. Solet also played a key role in local drug enforcement.
“I am proud to say that I headed that division for 13 years, longer than any other commander,” Solet said of his time in the Sheriff’s Office narcotics division. “I worked with a dedicated team to aggressively fight the never-ending drug problem that plagues our streets. Narcotics investigations have many aspects from finances, tactical officer coordination, critical incident management, to safety.”
Another long-serving Terrebonne deputy with a wealth of diverse experience is Tim Soignet. He joined the Sheriff’s Office with a set of special credentials, as a career Marine who served in the Gulf War and reached the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
Retiring from the Sheriff’s Office with the rank of Major, Soignet coupled his military experience with special training that made him a valuable asset to Larpenter’s team.
“In an effort to make our schools safer, I worked on developing and implementing critical incident training (Active Shooter) for school teachers and administrative staff throughout the parish,” Soignet said.“I also implemented and provided critical incident training for numerous churches and workplaces throughout the area in an effort to help the parents of our children, our future leaders, have a safe environment as well. The safety of every citizen in our parish is of utmost importance to me and is something that I will continue to focus on as Sheriff of Terrebonne Parish. During my time as director of the Police Academy, I would often explain to the cadets the many dangers of police work and the difficult circumstances that go along with it. Many times, I would emphasize to them that the most important part of their day as officers is when they are able to make it home safe to their families at the end of each shift. It is a personal belief of mine that a police officer needs a purpose each day to remind them to not be complacent, and their families are that purpose. I have trained these new officers that the badge doesn’t symbolize power, but rather, it symbolizes a responsibility to the people. I promised these officers that I would continue to remind them of this. I intend on keeping that promise.”
While Bergeron, Solet and Soignet are locked into the ballot, others are reportedly heavily considering a run.
Col. Terry Daigre, appointed chief deputy by Larpenter, has racked up praise from fellow officers while holding positions ranging from patrol to commander of the narcotics division.
Mark Pitre, an investigator for Terrebonne Parish District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr., has won the respect of law enforcement personnel and, as an official of Houma’s Krewe of Hercules, could have an extra boost from that range of support.
Both are rumored to be putting their hat in the ring in the coming months.
The initial scheduled election date is Oct. 12. If more than two candidates run, and one garners 50 percent of the votes plus one, that person will be the winner. If that doesn’t occur then the two candidates with the greatest number of votes will face a run-off on Nov. 16. •

BY JOHN DESANTIS

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