Celebration day for Washington Parish

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New beginnings was the theme this past Monday in Washington Parish.

Johnny Crain Jr. was sworn in as clerk of court, filling the chair long held by his dad, and Jimbo Stevenson was sworn in as assessor, although he does not officially take over until January.

Stevenson is taking over for Randy Seal, who, in the most significant event of the day, recited his oath of office as sheriff. Seal’s swearing was certainly the most grandiose of the three, attracting several hundred supporters including a Who’s Who of Washington Parish politicos.

Seal’s win over incumbent Bobby Crowe this past fall ended a campaign that was filled with mud slinging and accusations from both sides. Neither candidate escaped bruises to their reputations, both professionally and personally.

But on this day when a few clouds did little to tame the scorching mid-summer sun, Seal said all of the right things. During a 10-minute speech he touched on the hot-button topics, including crime, litter, the poor condition of the jail, professionalism, fiscal responsibility and his staff.

He even committed to helping solve the 1965 murder of O’Neal Moore, one of the first two black deputies in Washington Sheriff. This was a surprising development on many fronts, but Seal pledged to help the FBI, which began actively reworking the case several years ago.

To his credit, Seal took the high road and did not revisit the cantankerous tone of the campaign trail. He did not mention Crowe by name, nor did he make any disparaging remarks about his successor.

Rather, he mapped out his vision for the future, giving the people what they wanted to hear. And they responded with several bursts of applause.

To be sure, Seal faces a monumental task. As a result of years of neglect, the jail is in deplorable condition. High drug traffic in the parish demands increased patrols, meaning additional manpower, and equipment must be updated.

All of this must come when the parish is calling for budget crunching in the wake of some disappointing financial news.

Seal and his administration must be creative in finding ways to stretch their limited dollars and not jeopardize public safety.

But that was temporarily put on hold, for Monday was a day of celebration, a day when multi-colored balloons ushered in a new era in Washington Parish. It was a day of parties, handshakes and hugs, a time of optimism.

Reality set in Tuesday when the real work began.