By Juanice Gray and Hannah Richardson
“It’s been one hell of a ride, it’s bittersweet for me,” said five term Sheriff Victor Jones Jr. during a press conference Thursday, March 7 afternoon in his office at which time he announced he will not seek re-election and will retire at the end of his term in 2020.
“When my term as sheriff is complete next year, I will have over 43 years of working in the Sheriff’s Office. It has been the most rewarding career I could have ever imagined. I am so thankful to my fellow deputies through the years and the current team in the Sheriff’s Office who work tirelessly to serve the citizens of our parish. This is a good time for me and for the office to make this transition. We have a great group of trained professionals in the office whom will continue to serve the next administration well. As for me, I am in good health and am looking forward to enjoying my family and friends in retirement,” said Jones in a press release.
“People in the parish have been so good to me and my family and all my folks at this office,” he said Thursday. “I feel like if I stayed longer, it would be selfish on my part.” Jones began his career with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office in 1977, beginning as a dispatcher and a patrol deputy. Jones recalled that period in his career during the press conference.
“When I was hired in 1977, past sheriff Sam James said to me, ‘It’s not how many people you put in jail that matters, it’s how many you keep out of jail.’ It didn’t make any sense at the time but as the years passed I got to understanding what he was talking about.” When Jones was elected, he said that statement brought on the community and youth service division to help people make good decisions and stay out of prison. “I’ve lived with that philosophy since 1977 and that’s how I want to go out.”
Jones ascended through the ranks during his years of service, working in every department of the office. In 1992, he was selected to attend the FBI National Training Academy in Quantico, Va. In 2011, Jones was enshrined in the Louisiana Criminal Justice Hall of Fame for his leadership in promoting community and youth services as an integral part of a sheriff’s office. Lessons he learned early in his tenure as sheriff prompted him to name his successor to ease the transition.
“I endorsed someone in my department to take my place and that is Stewart Wright. He’s been with me now 7-8 years and retired from the DA’s office after 27 years to come work with me.” Jones said they became long-time friends over the years. One of the things that helped Jones nominate Wright was the advice of senior citizens whom he’s worked closely with have told him when he leaves, to find a good person that would take care of the community. “I think that would happen with Stewart Wright. I call him my ‘in-house lawyer,’ as he does a little bit of everything.” Jones said officers call on Wright often for help and advice. “He’s been a great asset to this department.”
An official campaign announcement from Wright is forthcoming. While Jones endorses Wright, there is still protocol in place to elect a sheriff. No one has officially thrown thier hat in the ring for the fall election. Jones said he’s been thinking about not running again for a while, and it came to grips in November of last year. “I didn’t know if Wright (would) accept it or not so I asked him if he would consider it and he said he would. I said ‘now, if you don’t, I’m more likely to run again.’”
Jones said he locked his decisions in January, and that the timing was right. “There’s been a lot of thoughts, a lot of praying and a lot of second thoughts,” said Jones. “It’s hard to walk away when it’s good. I’m not running away from my problems. I’ve always been told, ‘you’ll know when it’s time’ and I feel it. I feel it’s time.”
See the entire press conference at our Facebook page, www.facebook/NatchitochesTimes Additional content provided from a press release.