Catching up with House District 81 candidate, Jeff Wiley

District 81 candidate, Jeff Wiley

Sheriff Jeff Wiley’s career in local law enforcement spanned four decades when he retired in 2018, having served as Ascension’s top law enforcement officer for 23 years.  Wiley’s leadership, and a healthy tax base, transformed Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office into the finest, most professional policing organization in the State of Louisiana (in our humble opinion).  An Ascension legend, Jeff Wiley had secured quite a legacy to reflect upon as he spoiled five grandchildren between tee times at Pelican Point Golf Course.

But he “still has something left to give to our community” and found another opportunity to do so.

“I’ve been retired four years and I miss serving.  I think I can do a good job,” he said.  “My record speaks for itself.”

Ascension voters agreed with the sentiment over six election cycles.  First elected in October of 1995 with just over 51% of the vote, Wiley would garner 83% in a three-man contest in 1999 and was never challenged again on his way to six straight election victories to the highest law enforcement office in the parish.

NOTE: District 81 in Louisiana’s House of Representatives will be an open seat on Election Day (October 14) since Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder is ineligible for reelection due to a three-term limit.  The district is comprised of voting precincts in three parishes (Ascension, approximately 35% of total electorate; Livingston-51%; and St. James-14%).

Wiley managed APSO for 23 years, overseeing some 400 employees and an annual budget of more than $30 million while leading the effort to fund (without new taxes) and construct new facilities and develop community programs, including a first-ever consolidated Fire-EMS-law enforcement 911 Center in Ascension Parish.

How do those skills translate to the legislative branch?

“I understand the importance of working with other agencies to get things done, and I know what it means to be responsible for decisions that are made for the public I love to serve,” Wiley said. “The voters of this district can trust me to do what is right for them.”

“Now, more than ever, our state needs leaders who will stand up for our families, protect our basic rights and be good stewards of public dollars,” he added.

One glaring issue those parishes share, drainage and flooding concerns.  Jeff Wiley urged “a regional approach, understanding improvement in one place might put additional water onto a neighbor.”  He pointed to the Hwy 22 Gapping Project as an exemplar.

Council approves $42 Million agreement for Hwy 22 Bridge Construction drainage improvements

Its funding settled a three-year old lawsuit by which Livingston Parish sought to enjoin construction of the long-awaited Laurel Ridge Levee Extension in Ascension.  It is a rare instance of cooperation between the parishes, and their respective legislative delegations.

Candidate Jeff Wiley promises to foster more of the same, combined with an understanding of legislative realities. Wiley had extensive dealings with the Louisiana Legislature as the Legislative Chairman for the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association for more than a decade?

“I don’t claim to be an expert in the legislative process, not be any means,” Wiley conceded.  “But I’m not exactly a novice, either.  I do know that we killed a lot of bad bills over the years, though.”

Violent crime, including the illicit drug trade, is of particular concern the longtime sheriff whose career also included eight years as Ascension’s Chief Criminal Deputy.  Wiley singled out the national trend toward “bail reform” for particular scorn; an “unconscionable phenomenon of hardened criminals, with lengthy records of violent crime” released pre-trial.

“Bail reform may be popular in some areas of the country.  It is not popular with me,” Wiley declared.  “All too often violent criminals are getting out of jail immediately.”

“You show me, or any veteran law enforcement officer, somebody who commits a heinous violent crime and I’ll show you somebody who’s been in the system before…many times.  Look, I’m a second chance guy who has tried to help a lot of individuals over the years.  But, if you are committing a violent crime I am for no bail, followed by long-term incarceration upon conviction,” he explained.

Beginning in 2017, Louisiana’s overhaul of its criminal justice system freed up cell space to accommodate those violent offenders.  It was a controversial undertaking with mixed returns a-half-a-decade later.  So it goes with most legislative initiatives.

“There are many more issues confronting the folks of District 81 and the State of Louisiana,” candidate Jeff Wiley concluded.  “In the coming months I look forward to hearing all those concerns and share my ideas on solving them.”