Task force bears down on Monroe crime

OUACHITA PARISH Sheriff Jay Russell says a recent street crime operation enabled officers to arrest criminals who do not normally crop up during routine patrols. It’s hard for offenders to hide when there’s 70 officers in one area, according to Russell. He discussed the sting with other law enforcement officials at a May 23 news conference at the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Rifle Range.

Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell and several other parish and legislative officials were elected without opposition last week, having drawn no opponents during qualifying.

Russell, who was first elected sheriff in 2011, said he was humbled to be re-elected without opposition.

“It shows the public have a lot of faith in the men and women in the department,” Russell said. “I have a lot of faith in them. I would put our people up against the men and women from anywhere else.”

Russell attributed his office’s success to the public’s support.

“The public gave us the tools, education and equipment to do what we do,” he said.

Referring to the completion of the North Delta Regional Training Academy facility at the Sheriff’s Rifle Range in West Monroe, Russell said training was one of his top priorities for Sheriff’s Office personnel.

“Crime is changing everyday,” Russell said. “People that commit crimes are getting smarter, so we have to get smarter and train better, too. The world’s changing, and we have to change with it.”

As he begins a new term as sheriff, Russell indicated a trend of people leaving the Twin Cities to live in unincorporated Ouachita Parish meant his office would re-evaluate how best to serve and protect residents.

“People are moving outside into the parish, and we’re going to look at better means and ways to protect them, because that is where they are moving,” he said.

One police juror re-elected

Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson, of District A, was the only police juror to secure re-election without opposition. Police Jurors Jack Clampit and Shane Smiley also are seeking re-election but drew challengers last week.

“I have really enjoyed these last eight years,” Robinson said. “I love public service and helping people. I’m flattered to think that people think I’m doing a good job.”

Since 2016, the Police Jury has undertaken a series of major road rehabilitation projects, thanks in large part to two sales tax increases approved by the voters on each side of the Ouachita River.

“I want to continue contributing to that,” Robinson said. “Just like we did with Slocum Road, 40 Oaks Farm Road, Caples Road, Commanche Trail, I want to get as many roads done as possible.”

Some changes to the Ouachita Parish Public Library’s main branch building also were on the horizon, according to Robinson.

WM Alderman elected

Meanwhile, Morgan Buxton, who is an interim member of the West Monroe Board of Aldermen, was elected to the office without opposition.

“Honestly, I am so blessed and thankful for the opportunity to represent the citizens of West Monroe,” Buxton said. “The last three or four months have been a pleasure and a learning experience.”

Buxton was first appointed to the board in light of former Alderman Sonny Bennett’s resignation. Buxton was appointed to complete Bennett’s unexpired term but will now serve a full term.

“Hearing from the people of West Monroe, as their representative, is a priority for me,” Buxton said. “I want to get a sense of what their concern is and where they think we are doing a great job. My husband and I try to be visible in the community and make sure there are opportunities for people to engage with us.”

Public services were key to the city’s ongoing success, according to Buxton.

“I think we have greater leadership in West Monroe and several innovative minds to move the city forward,” she said. “Getting the basics right is the essential, and that means public safety, flooding, water quality, and those essentials set us up for good economic growth. We want our chidlren to grow up here and have jobs here, and I think we’re seeing the fruits of that work already.”

Tax assessor re-elected

Tax Assessor Stephanie Smith also was re-elected without opposition.

“We’re thankful to be unopposed and glad that the public is pleased with my service and trusts me to do this job,” Smith said. “Property taxes are not popular, and if we do our job right, we won’t be popular with everyone, but we try to be fair and honest, and I hope the public sees that.”

Smith said part of her office’s responsibility is to explain how assessments work to the public and to explain where the taxes go as well.

One of the tools freely available to the public is the Tax Assessor’s website, www.opassessor.com, which allows people to search for properties throughout Ouachita Parish in an interactive map and records archive.

“We’ll continue to update the Tax Assessor’s website that can be useful to other people in the community,” Smith said. “It also makes evaluations transparent and helps us do more with fewer people.”

In Ouachita Parish, Coroner Teri O’Neal also was re-elected without opposition.

Legislative elections

Several area elected officials secured election to offices in the state Legislature as well.

Monroe City Councilman Michael Echols, a Republican, was elected without opposition to represent the 14th District in the state House of Representatives.

“It’s been a humbling experience to go through this process and meet with my constituents in both Morehouse and Ouachita parishes,” Echols said. “Having lived in Ouachita Parish, I’m highly attuned to the issues, whether that’s flood control or crime.”

Referring to his past work in Morehouse Parish, Echols described the parish as a “vibrant community.”

“But roads and infrastructure as well as economic development are priorities in that parish,” he said.

Echols said discussions with constituents and state leaders revealed several opportunities to pursue in the coming years.

“I look forward to working hard,” he said.

Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, secured election to his former seat in the state House of Representatives, because he was the sole candidate to qualify for the 19th District last week.

Rep. Pat Moore, D-Monroe, was re-elected without opposition represent the 17th District in the House of Representatives. Moore was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election earlier this year, but her election last week means she will now serve a full term.

Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, also was re-elected without opposition to represent the 13th District in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was elected without opposition to the 34th District in the state Senate.

The Ouachita Citizen could not reach Moore, McFarland, Jackson, or Thompson for a comment.

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