Outgoing Sheriff Mike Neustrom has tapped attorney Mark Garber as his preferred successor for Lafayette Parish sheriff, issuing a letter of endorsement Tuesday (reproduced below). Neustrom had so far declined to enter the fray of the ongoing campaign, so the break in reticence comes as a modest surprise. His choice of Garber, however, is not so surprising given the Broussard attorney’s full-hearted support for Neustrom’s diversion programs and his open commitment to expanding alternative sentencing policies outside the parish.
While each of the four candidates has given at least nominal plaudits to Neustrom’s tenure, one which has seen a dramatic reduction in recidivism for inmates booked into Lafayette Parish corrections, Garber has staked his campaign on those programs with uncouched support. Initiatives like LAPCORR, the Transitional Work Program and the Juvenile Assessment Center have contributed to a 25 percent recidivism rate for participating inmates in Lafayette Parish, a remarkably low figure when compared with a national average of 65 percent for general population prisoners.
Several sources within the Sheriff's office have told The IND that current LPSO employees involved with the alternative sentencing program have hoped Neustrom would openly support Garber in the election, citing their belief that he posed the best chance for continuity.
Obviously, this comes as a major victory for Garber’s campaign. Garber has consistently lagged behind current front-runner Chad Leger, who’s led in recent polls by double digits. An internal poll conducted by the Garber campaign and reported in August of this year showed 38 percent of polled voters supporting Leger and 21 percent supporting Garber. The Garber campaign credited that polling disparity to a lack of name recognition. Leger, as sitting chief of the Scott police department, has pressed several elections worth of flesh and built a strong base of support in Acadiana.
An endorsement from a popular and successful sitting sheriff will certainly hoist Garber’s name in a crowded field that can, at times, blur together. Differentiation among the four Republican candidate’s political and operational proclivities have been somewhat difficult in months' worth of forums. With Neustrom’s support in tow, Garber can now claim status as anointed steward of Neustrom’s legacy and begin to separate himself from the herd, at least in terms of a proven commitment to diversionary law enforcement.
In his letter, Neustrom commended Garber’s multi-jurisdictional experience at both the federal and county levels of law enforcement, as a Secret Service agent and a sheriff’s deputy in Texas, as well as his focus on data driven methods of law enforcement and education.
Below is Neustrom's endorsement letter:
To the residents of Lafayette Parish:
I take this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to you in electing me to serve as Sheriff of Lafayette Parish for the past sixteen years. I am proud of our men and women in uniform, and the successes and advancements we’ve made during these years. My retirement brings you the opportunity to elect someone who can continue to move our office forward.
Nationally, law enforcement and corrections management strategies have changed drastically in the past 10 years. I am proud that our office has been in the forefront of these changes. It is vitally important that our next Sheriff and his staff continue to explore and utilize new and innovative methods to protect and serve the citizens of the most progressive parish in Louisiana.
For the last six months, I have been asked countless times to share my opinion as to who would best serve as the next Sheriff. I know all of the candidates; I have visited with each of them personally, and allowed them to visit with our office and meet our employees. I have thoughtfully listened to their ideas from interviews, forums, and public media. After careful consideration, I have decided that Mark Garber is the best person to serve as Sheriff of Lafayette Parish.
Mark Garber has the diverse background and experience needed to serve as Lafayette’s next Sheriff. Whether it is his commitment to professional law enforcement over politics, focus on education, safety, or communication, Mark has the character and tenacity to serve us well. As the only candidate with law enforcement experience at both local and federal levels, Mark is the most qualified to wisely manage our eight hundred employees and eleven hundred inmates. His many awards and achievements are a testament to his natural leadership ability. He will bring innovation and integrity to the Sheriff’s office, and I ask that you give careful consideration to his candidacy.
I am prepared to work with the incoming Sheriff, in order to ensure an orderly and seamless transition. I urge all citizens to become active voters so that your voices and values can be reflected in this election.
Sincerely, Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom