Attorney Mark Garber makes case for why he should be our next sheriff

"As a friend recently put it, I have been behind the badge and in front of the badge" — attorney Mark Garber during his candidacy announcement Tuesday, laying out why he's the best choice for Lafayette Parish's next sheriff.

Mark Garber
Photos by Robin May

In announcing his candidacy for Lafayette Parish's upcoming sheriff’s race during a packed-house press conference at Zea’s Rotisserie & Grill on Tuesday, attorney Mark Garber mostly let his extensive law enforcement résumé do the talking.

Garber is a former Assistant District Attorney with the 15th Judicial District, mostly known for his work as the lead prosecutor in the first-degree murder case against Seth Fontenot (the bizarre developments of this case were featured in a commentary in the just-published March edition of IND Monthly, check out the story, "Unsealed," here). Garber resigned from the DA’s office late last year — handing the ongoing Fontenot case over to ADA J.N. Prather — and has since set his sights on the post held by longtime Sheriff Mike Neustrom following his decision against making another run for reelection in the fall.

Speaking before a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd jammed in a small meeting room inside the restaurant for Tuesday’s announcement — consisting of well over 50 of the candidate’s friends, family and potential allies, as well as a number of local attorneys, politicos and law enforcement officials from throughout the parish — Garber followed the line already set by the other two announced candidates in the race by paying homage to Neustrom and the legacy he’ll leave upon hanging up his badge next year.

From Tuesday’s speech:

For the past 15 years the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has been under the capable leadership of Mike Neustrom and in the very, very capable, dedicated hands of the men and women serving our community in the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Neustrom and his team have brought accreditation to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and reduced crime through innovative programs in correction and rehabilitation.

Mike Neustrom will leave office next year after serving 16 years as sheriff of Lafayette Parish

Our sheriff’s department and our community are about to enter into a new phase and it will take a leader with vision and diversity of outside experience to continue to build on and improve what Sheriff Neustrom and his team have accomplished.

Garber says he's the man for the job. And he's making his case by pointing to his résumé and 20 years experience in law enforcement.

Here's Garber listing his experiences during Tuesday's speech, starting from the beginning as a sheriff's deputy in Acadia Parish at the age of 19:

I was a deputy sheriff in Acadia Parish working for Ken Goss and working my way through college at LSU. After graduating with a bachelor in Criminal Justice from Louisiana State University. I was privileged to work for the next10 years as a local police officer where I held various assignments including field training officer, motorcycle officer police sniper, police sergeant, and sergeant over special operations. During this phase of my career I also sought higher education and was admitted to Southern Methodist School of Law and obtained a law degree.

My career was not always easy especially balancing police work with law school as there was no part-time program available so I found a solution as I always have by working the midnight shift patrolling, going to school in the day time. After I finished law school I had the privilege to serve our community and our great country as a special agent criminal investigator with the department of defense under the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. I held assignments in counterintelligence and narcotics investigations and also volunteered to deploy to Iraq. I did deploy to Iraq in 2006 where I served as a battle field interrogator for the special operations task force and was awarded a Bronze Star. It was also during this time that I was recruited by the U.S. Secret Service following my deployment. I did accept the position with the secret service and was sent to New York City,while this was an experience of a lifetime and it had always been my dream to operate and to be in law enforcement at that highest level and as wonderful as it was it wasn’t home, and by this time Rachel and I had our daughter Claire and we wanted more children. We wanted to raise our children in a community that reflected our value and our beliefs and we wanted our children to know their cousins and grandparents as we had known ours. Essentially we wanted to come home to Acadiana and so we did. After moving back home I was honored to serve our community as a felony prosecutor here in Lafayette and to have the privilege of continuing my life’s work of serving and protecting our community.

For the past six and a half years, I have aggressively prosecuted criminals in our community. It is through this experience that I gained yet another prospective on law enforcement. As a friend recently put it, I have been behind the badge and in front of the badge. It is my unique combination of experience and education that I offer the voters of Lafayette as your next sheriff. I am here to provide that to our community therefore it is my honor and privilege to stand before you all today and announce my candidacy for Sheriff of Lafayette Parish.

Garber's competition, at least those who've made official announcements, includes longtime Lafayette Parish Sheriff's deputy John Rogers (who's also an attorney and heads LPSO's Risk Management Division) and Scott Police Chief Chad Leger.

Read more on the other candidates seeking to take the reigns from Sheriff Neustrom by clicking here for Rogers and here for Leger. And for more on Neustrom, his time time in office and his reasons for moving on, click here.