July 1, 2016 12:07 AM

Photos by Wynce Nolley

Mark Garber officially became sheriff of Lafayette Parish following a swearing in ceremony Friday morning at LPSO’s Public Safety Complex on Willow Street. He replaces Mike Neustrom, who has served for the past 16 years and opted to retire rather than seek re-election.

Before a packed crowd of friends, family, supporters and a who’s who cast of local officials, Garber took the oath of office from 15th Judicial District Judge Kristian Earles, who once worked alongside Garber as an Acadia Parish sheriff’s deputy years ago.

“I didn’t think it would be this emotional, but it is emotional,” Garber told the crowd after being officially sworn in. “This has been a dream of mine since I was 15 years old. There’s no other job in the world I would choose over being sheriff of Lafayette Parish.”

In his speech Friday, Garber discussed the long road traveled to become sheriff, which culminated in a runoff victory against challenger Chad Leger in November (Leger attended the swearing in) when Garber received 55 percent of the vote.

“We’re not going to quit on this community, I just ask that you stick with us in the tough times we know that will come in the future,” said Garber. “You can rest assured knowing that you’re protected by a very dedicated group of men and women.”

Sheriff Mark Garber and members of his command staff, from left: Maj. Cathy Fontenot, Col. Carlos Stout, and Majs. Art LeBreton, Jules Broussard and Rick Chargois.

Garber also took the opportunity to introduce his new command staff during Friday’s ceremony — including former Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout as chief deputy; and Art LeBreton (LPSO’s former chief deputy) as enforcement commander under Stout; Jules Broussard as human resources commander; Rick Chargois (who ran against Garber in the fall) as special services commander (training, intelligence and narcotics); and former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot, who was recently hired as warden of the jail.

“I also want to thank Sheriff Mike Neustrom; he set a lot of things in motion that helped put this sheriff’s office on the map,” Garber said. “I look forward to carrying his work forward.”