Local Art & Culture UpdatesSeptember 2023
Cool Jobs: Sports Information Director: A Bonnette Family LegacySeptember 2023
by Taylor Trahan Henry
*All candidates were contacted using the contact information provided during qualifying. Those who responded by press time are included.
Dustan Abshire is a lifelong resident of Calcasieu Parish. Abshire embarked on his law enforcement journey immediately after high school, working in various roles, including corrections, patrol, and specialized investigations such as sex crimes and child abuse. After serving as a deputy for 15 years, Abshire pursued a career shift, attending law school and ultimately becoming a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office. Following his time as a prosecutor, he opened his own law firm, specializing in family law and criminal defense. Abshire is a committed family man, having been married for 22 years and raising three children. He and his wife are also proud grandparents to four grandchildren.
He brings a profound blend of experiences to the table. “I have the unique experience of knowing both sides of the law,” he says. “I’ve been a cop, a prosecutor, and now I’m a criminal defense attorney and a business owner.” Abshire’s motivation in seeking the position of Sheriff is to bring about the necessary changes required to restore trust in law enforcement within the community. He is committed to enhancing the safety of the community and prioritizing the well-being of the men and women serving in the Sheriff’s department.
“My primary goal is to rebuild trust within the community,” Abshire says. “I recognize that effective law enforcement relies on strong bonds between the public and the department.” Building relationships in the community will open the lines of communication. Abshire recognizes the importance of trust as a foundation for success and aims to foster relationships that facilitate effective dialogue. One key component in accomplishing that goal is to create a committee that will help bridge communication gaps and provide valuable insights to enhance community-police relations.
Abshire believes the Sheriff’s office should focus on building their department around the challenges in our world today. “I’m committed to enhancing public safety, emphasizing community involvement, bringing in mental health professionals for crisis situations, ensuring school safety through training and procedures, and developing programs to address drug-related crimes and violence.”
Another part of his plan is to establish a new command structure and staff with a plan to create a structured system based on four pillars; enforcement, corrections, investigation, and special services. “Deputy retention and development of leadership is pivotal,” Abshire says. “Providing excellent training, creating a fair system for promotions, communication about long term goals, and a defined pay scale are all a part of that.”
Abshire believes that his extensive background in law enforcement combined with his dedication to improving community relations and enhancing the Sheriff’s Office, uniquely qualifies them for the role of Sheriff in Calcasieu Parish.
Les Blanchard was born and raised in Lake Charles. He graduated from Barbe High School in 1991 and McNeese State University in 1995, earning a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Blanchard earned his college degree while working twelve-hour shifts at the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, demonstrating a strong commitment to dedication, work ethic, and sacrifice. Les is married to his best friend and is the proud father of four.
The upcoming election for the new Sheriff in Calcasieu Parish marks an exciting time for the community. “I am honored for this opportunity. I understand the immense task ahead of me and am eager to return to serving our great parish,” says Blanchard. “Public service is my life’s blood and I’m passionate about this office.”
After over thirty years of dedicated service to the people of the parish and beyond, Blanchard retired in July to devote his efforts, focus, and energy to the campaign for Calcasieu Parish Sheriff – a move that he says is not the end but rather a new beginning.
If elected, Blanchard’s priority is to improve the quality of life for all residents. While law enforcement is a crucial aspect of the role, he emphasizes the office’s fundamental mission – helping people. And that starts with the boots on the ground. “I will empower our deputies to be their best,” he says. “I will place emphasis on employee retention and development, proper compensation, operational consistency, fiscal responsibility, mental health, human trafficking, opioid crisis and much more.” Accountability will be a cornerstone, ensuring adherence to the law. “I’m going to invest in our most valuable asset, our deputies,” he adds.
Blanchard’s extensive experience began at the age of 19, working his way up from corrections to patrol and investigations. Most of his career was spent as a unit leader in areas such as narcotics, violent crimes, domestic violence, juveniles, sex crimes, and participation in federal task forces, with approximately 18 years of this service focused primarily on handling violent crimes. This breadth of experience has uniquely prepared him for the role of Sheriff. “I’ve seen more faces of evil than any man should,” says Blanchard. “This has not only equipped me for the job but made me appreciate the true value of life.” Blanchard brings empathy, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to fairness.
His motivation for seeking office transcends the typical notion of motivation; he sees it as a calling from within. “All my life experiences have led me to this moment, and I wholeheartedly embrace the challenges that lie ahead,” Blanchard says.
Gary “Stitch” Guillory is one of the most trusted leaders in Calcasieu Parish and will bring 40 years of law enforcement experience as the next Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish.
“I believe God gave us life and this great country provided us with opportunity, which is why I have devoted my life to maintaining law and order for the people of Calcasieu Parish. It has been my honor to be the Chief Deputy and lead one of the nation’s finest law enforcement agencies for the last 19 years. As Sheriff, I will use my decades of experience, fresh ideas, and vision to take the office to even greater heights,” said Guillory.
At age 21, Guillory discovered his passion for law enforcement while serving as a patrolman for the Westlake Police Department. During his 21-year career there, he rose through the ranks and was appointed interim Chief of Police in 1997, then elected to the position the following year. In 2004, he joined the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office as Chief Deputy.
Throughout his decades-long law enforcement career, Guillory has served as a Juvenile Officer, a Firearms Instructor, and a D.A.R.E. Officer. His educational credentials include the FBI National Academy, an intensive ten-week course attended by only one percent of law enforcement leaders worldwide; the LSU Basic Training Academy; the LSU Juvenile Officers Institute; the D.A.R.E. Instructor School; and the P.O.S.T. Firearms Instructor School.
Guillory has shown compassion for crime victims as well as first-time offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes. He was appointed by the Governor to the Crime Victims Board and currently serves as its chairman. In addition, he is a member of the Crime Reparations Board, which is responsible for assisting victims of crime with their expenses.
If elected, Guillory will continue to take a strong stance against violent and repeat offenders to keep Calcasieu Parish a safe and secure place for our families to live. He also plans to respond vigorously to the massive spike in fentanyl use and trafficking.
As a fiscal conservative, Guillory believes tax dollars should be prioritized and spent wisely. “I will be a responsible steward of our taxpayers’ money. Before anything else, I will invest in our most valuable resource, our deputies. I will continuously strive to ensure that our deputies are highly trained and well-compensated. Our community deserves the best, and I know what it takes to provide that.”
Chris Savoie, Chief Deputy for the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s Office, is a lifelong Cameron Parish resident with 27 years of law enforcement experience.
“I am committed to providing a solid, well-trained, well-educated law enforcement department to serve and protect our community,” Savoie says. “My goal is to build upon our current success with continuing education, advanced technology and increased visibility and engagement across the parish.”
Savoie began his law enforcement career with the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s Office in 1996, serving in the patrol division for five years before being promoted to the criminal detective division, a position he held for 11 years. He was promoted to Chief Deputy 11 years ago. As Chief Deputy, Savoie has established several new divisions and programs including the School Resource Officer Division and courtroom security, as well as creating a dedicated officer position to monitor parish-wide sex offenders.
Savoie has created, implemented and increased required officer training in firearms, patrol rifle, radar, DWI/Field Sobriety, first-aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) usage. Under his direction, all Cameron Parish Sheriff employees are CPR certified, and AEDs have been placed in all patrol units.
During the 2020 natural disasters, Savoie was tasked with setting up temporary office space in order to continue communicating and responding to the community. Savoie has also adopted new technology systems for each patrol unit as well as new traffic trailers, ATVs and watercraft to efficiently meet the unique needs of Cameron Parish residents.
Savoie has completed extensive law enforcement training throughout his career, including the Calcasieu Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association Institute, and Traffic Reconstruction, Hostage Negotiation and Crime Scene Investigation Training, all through the Institute of Police Technology & Management. He is also a certified DWI/Standardized Field Sobriety Test instructor.
Active in professional and community organizations, Savoie is a member of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, FBI-L.E.E.D.A., Cameron Parish Recovery Board, Cameron Parish Lions Club, Cameron Parish Council on Aging Board and Grand Lake Faith Temple. He is a volunteer coach of youth and high school sports and is the former vice president of Grand Lake Little League Baseball.
“I am proud to serve and live in the greatest, most resilient parish in Louisiana, and I promise to continue moving the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s office into the future with the best resources,” says Savoie.
JEFFERSON DAVIS PARISH
Kyle Miers was born in the heart of Jennings at the then Jennings American Legion Hospital in 1975. He spent his childhood living in Roanoke, graduated from Welsh High School, and later graduated from SOWELA. His journey into public service began when he enlisted in the Louisiana Army National Guard before graduating, a career during which he would go on to receive the Army Achievement Medal.
Miers began his career in law enforcement in 2000 at the Ward 3 City Marshal’s Office in Lake Charles under then City Marshal Tony Mancuso. He followed Mancuso to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office after his election as Sheriff. He was named the president of his class at the Calcasieu Parish Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy and went on to serve nearly two decades with the department before taking an amicable leave of absence to pursue election to Sheriff of Jeff Davis Parish.
During his tenure at the CPSO, he gained a broad spectrum of experience, spanning corrections, patrol, SWAT, Dive Team/UCIU (Underwater Criminal Investigation Unit) supervision, and coordination of operations with several federal agencies. He received recognition for his heroic actions, including being awarded the CPSO Challenge Coin for saving a potential drowning victim.
If elected Sheriff, Miers pledges to prioritize communication and trust-building within the community. “I’ve been active in this community for the past four years,” he says. “I know how vital communication and trust within the community and between municipal and parish law enforcement agencies is.”
Miers brings unique experiences with cutting-edge technology and collaborations with high-tech companies like Google, AT&T, and T-Mobile, among others. “I’ve been fortunate to use the most up-to-date technology to solve major federal crimes,” he says. “I’d like to implement that same technology to protect the people of the parish.”
Miers also plans address issues related to parish jail to ensure every felon is booked. Additional goals are to create a proactive crime deterrent unit, which will consist of additional patrol officers on the streets, establishing a Federal Drug Task Force, and proactively addressing juvenile crime. Lastly, Miers emphasizes a strong focus on deputy development and training.
Sheriff Ivy Woods
Sheriff Ivy Woods is seeking reelection to a fourth term as Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff. A lifelong resident of the parish, Sheriff Woods has raised his family here and takes pride in seeing his children choose to do the same. “I patrolled this parish as a Louisiana State Trooper and it was a lifelong goal to one become Sheriff,” he says. “That dream became reality in 2011 and the goal remains the same as I seek reelection.”
Sheriff Woods is resolute about the importance of keeping up with the ever-evolving world of crime and its prevention. Harnessing newer and better technology across various aspects of law enforcement, from administration to criminal investigations, is vital in keeping the department running efficiently.
Additionally, he emphasizes the significance of employee motivation and equipped personnel. “They are the key to keeping this agency running,” Sheriff Woods says. “They need the proper tools and morale to continue to serve the people of the parish properly and safely.”
With an impressive thirty-two years of law enforcement experience, Sheriff Woods brings a wealth of knowledge and dedication to public service to the table. Before his current 11 tenure as the sitting Sheriff, he served for 21 years with the Louisiana State Police (LSP). “The time I’ve served with these two agencies has given me a wealth of experience needed to continue as Sheriff of Jeff Davis Parish.”
In his tenure as Sheriff, Woods has assembled a command staff boasting over 120 years of combined law enforcement experience, encompassing patrol, investigations, and administration; a testament to his leadership and his department’s dedication to the parish. But, as all good leaders know, there is always room for growth. “I still have a lot to do,” he says. “During my term as Sheriff, I’ve begun the much-needed task of expanding the Sheriff’s Office operations to a new administration building, as well as a dispatch building. Currently, we are in the beginning phase of constructing a new evidence and training building.” He considers these improvements to be an investment in his employees, which is not only beneficial to the agency but also to the people of the parish.
The strategy is complex but the goal, according to Sheriff Woods, is a simple one. “Ultimately, this is always the goal, to serve and protect those who make our community the best that it can be: the people.”