On Tuesday, September 3, Sherman Jackson, the City of Gonzales Police Chief, sent a letter in to The Creole. In it, he described his upset with three current councilmen responsible for making decisions for the City of Gonzales.
The public support for Jackson’s letter has been immense, with many congratulating him on what they feel was a “bold move to come forward” and put his name to the letter.
We caught up with Chief Jackson at his office on Cornerview Rd. in the city limits to find out more about what many are calling a move of “integrity.
“I don’t feel I did anything spectacular,” he said. “There comes a point where you sit in these meetings and see what’s going on and you know it’s just not right. The time came for me to make my feelings known. I’m sick of seeing these men take the easy way out and say they don’t have enough information to make informed decisions. That’s just not true. We are provided with information that is clear and allows us to make positive choices. They are just choosing not to.”
“Councilmen Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel picked apart this city’s budget at the last minute,” said Jackson. “We had two budget hearings, when none of them discussed any concerns. In fact, one of them (Lacombe) left during both meetings as he had something else to do. I mean, what’s more important that hashing out our budget? They waited until the last minute to make changes, then acted like they never knew certain things were in the budget. All they had to do was read it. The rest of us did. Oh, and to talk about getting rid of a public, special needs park, then insist that seven new tractors be bought. That’s just ridiculous. Then there’s been the Emerson fisasco. It’s understandable that there were major concerns initially with the location. I get that. Howewever, Emerson chose to pick another location within the city limits, and the three stood together and questioned that yet again. We could have lost Emerson, as it was clear in each meeting that the company felt frustrated and put out by those three councilmen. Now there’s all this talk about doing away with the EMS billing and getting involved with Acadian Ambulance. If these three were to look at numbers, they’d see the response times are amazing through our city EMS. Some things shouldn’t be about saving money, they should be about saving lives.”
Jackson is currently in his second term as Gonzales Chief of Police. His initial term saw a council undivided, one he feels “had the best interest of the city at heart.” His disappointment with the new council, although clear from his letter sent in as Chief of Police, however, stems more from the point of view as a proud resident of his hometown.
“I live here, work here, vote here and pay my taxes here,” he said. “Every resident, myself included, has the right to be heard when elected officials are going against what they feel is the right course of action. Councilmen Timothy Vessel, Gary Lacombe and Terance Irvin have personal agendas. I’m not saying anything that the residents of this city don’t already know.”
A bold move such as putting ones name to a letter showing disappointment with his city leaders could have adverse effects, especially when the author is an elected official himself. Fallout from fellow elected officials could have been an ill conceived career move, and one is eager to ask if Jackson has regrets or is nervous of his next encounters with elected officials.
“Not at all,” he said. “I did the right thing. I think there tends to be a lot of voter apathy at times. People make choices in elections, and when they find they may have been the wrong choices, they feel they don’t have a voice. Well, I was elected by those people and I have a responsibility to make myself heard on their behalf. If anything, I’m proud of myself, and I hope this letter gives people the encouragement they need to be proud of themselves as well when they make the decision to be heard.”
As far as worrying about fellow elected officials, Chief Jackson has been moved by the support he has received, whether by telephone call, email of simply a handshake or pat on the back. Most notably, Chief Jackson was honored by the support of his mayor.
“After reading the letter, I appreciate the fact that he spoke up like he did,” said Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux.”I hold the same concerns as Chief Jackson. It boggles the mind as to why issues such as Emerson, Project Kidz Kove and now the EMS service. keep coming up. It’s difficult to grasp why these elected officials aren’t being seen to care more for our city and its residents. I attend a number of conferences through the Louisiana Municipal Association, and other municipalities are questioning these men as well. Their behavior is ludicrous. I’m proud of Chief Jackson and support his right to be heard, especially in an issue this detrimental to our city.”
Other current and former elected officials even took their praise to thecreole.com, declaring their respect for the Chief of Police.
“Chief Jackson is right on target. I am so proud of him and his willingness to address these issues. I, too, grew up in Gonzales and watched it over the last few decades grow into one of the finest small cities in America. A great police department, great fire/EMS services, parks and recreation second to none, a tax base envied by all surrounding cities and towns, and lastly, a reputation thru the years of sound, rational, and ethical leadership. This was done by the good citizens who elected Councils and mayors who put the city first, not their personal agendas. Sadly, that is not the case today. Let’s not let a few destroy what this city has accomplished. As a fellow elected official, I remind the current Council that we both represent the community and our calling is to SERVE them..ALL of them, yes, even those who have special needs (check out who expressed opposition to Kidz Kove). I further remind the voters that when they lose confidence in their elected leaders they need to express that discontent at public forums and at the ballot box..this can be fixed..this needs to be fixed.” – Jeff Wiley
“As the former chief of police I am truly proud of Chief Sherman Jackson taking a public stand with his letter. Well said. I am saddened that Councilman Irvin has chosen to follow a man with criminal charges pending and the other that is in the process of a recall. It’s sad that these three councilmen have placed their personal agendas first and let the City of Gonzales get caught in the cross fire. The mayor pro-temp should display leadership principles as he is the one who must take charge in the event the mayor is not available. If this is an effort to make the current city administration look bad you three councilmen, (Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel) are not very good architects cause you have no foundation for your actions and you will crumble and fall. I can see an effort to cripple both the fire department and police department and you member of each agency need to join forces in an effort to maintain two of the best departments in Louisiana. I am certainly proud to have served 16 years as your chief and a total of 34 years of police work, all in Gonzales. I am truly disappointed to see the current state of affairs in city government. Chief Jackson and Chief Normand thanks for your service and thanks for the fine men and women you represent. Thank you Sheriff Wiley for your vote of confidence in this matter. I stand alongside each of you in this matter.” – Bill Landry
Councilmen who are working alongside the three pinpointed in the letter were also quick to offer kudos to Jackson.
“I support the Chief 120%,” said Councilman Kirk Boudreaux.
“I think the Chief’s letter is right on target,” said Councilman Kenny Matassa. “Being an elected official shouldn’t be all about ‘you,’ it should be about the citizens. So far, I haven’t seen anything from those three councilmen other than personal agendas, and that’s not right. I fully support Chief Jackson’s letter.”
Messages were left for both Councilmen Vessel and Irvin, indicating the reason for the call. At the time of press, neither councilman had responded.
When Councilman Lacombe was contacted, he claimed to not know about the letter.
“I feel it would be inappropriate to comment until I’ve seen what’s been written,” he said.
The Creole then made it clear that we would gladly post his response at a time he felt fitting.
In Chief Jackson’s letter, he defends the Gonzales Fire Department, a service he feels is “invaluable.” Chief Jackson’s respect for Gonzales Fire Chief is clear when he speaks of the department and their valued working relationship.
“It’s a wonderful department, and Tracey and his staff are outstanding, valued members of this community,” said Chief Jackson. ”I sickens me to see them being used as target practice.”
Residents have flocked to Facebook and thecreole.com to also let their voices be heard. “Thank you.” “Well said.” “I’m with you 100%.” “What a great tribute to the City of Gonzales.” “Bravo for speaking up and signing your name.” “We need more leaders like you.” Accolades have been flowing, but the Chief is soon to point out that that’s not why he did what he did.
“I appreciate everything being written about me or said about me,” he said. “I don’t even have the words to say how appreciative I am, but I hope people know that’s not why I did it. We have a responsibility when we are elected in to office to do right by the men and women of our community. That’s all I’m trying to do. The day’s going to come when I’m not the Gonzales Police Chief anymore. I hope when that happens, that people will know that I always had the people of this city in the forefront of my mind. I’m nothing special. I’m just a man trying to understand what goes on behind closed doors and voice my opinion when I find that those things just aren’t right.”
To read Chief Jackson’s complete letter, click on the following link. http://www.thecreole.com/?p=15495