As he nears the ends of his fourth decade in law enforcement, West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes will begin his fifth term as the parish’s top law enforcement officer after his reelection Nov. 16.
Cazes had to face three opponents in the Oct. 12 primary and while he captured a majority of the vote, 44 percent, he’d have needed 50 percent plus one vote to win in the primary.
With the votes for sheriff being split four ways, Cazes was forced into a runoff with Mike Zito, who received 25 percent of the primary votes.
The results of the runoff were close, but the incumbent came out on top by a margin of 242 votes, earning 51 percent of the votes cast in the election.
“I am thankful to the people of West Baton Rouge,” Cazes said. “I’m thankful for the people who voted for me and I’m looking forward to moving forward.”
He talked about his plans about the future in an interview last week.
“In my next four years, I’m going to increase the number of patrols by increasing the department in terms of manpower on the streets,” Cazes said.
“The people of West Baton elected me to protect and serve and reelected me to do a job as their sheriff and I will do that job,” he continued. “My job is to make the people of West Baton Rouge feel safe.”
”I’m happy to serve those people and I’m proud to serve them as sheriff and I will continue to make the parish safe,” Cazes said.
He said he had another goal he considered important in his position as sheriff.
“My other goal is to give the unfortunate who go to prison at a young age to get their education that they need to go back into society and become productive citizens and not have them return to prison,” Cazes said.
“That’s what my heart tells me, that’s what God is telling me,” he continued.
Cazes was the driving force behind West Baton Rouge having its own prison. As chief deputy, he asked the parish to vote on a half-cent sales tax to be able to build and operate a prison.
“The people overwhelmingly supported that,” he said. “It is now self-supporting with the proceeds from that sales tax and it’s all paid for.”
“It had been a liability to the parish,” Cazes said, adding since the prison was built, numerous other governmental buildings have been built near the prison.
“Everything on Northwest Drive is paid for because of my efforts over the last 40 years to continue to support West Baton Rouge,” he said.
Funds generated by the tax have also given Cazes the ability to purchase a gun club the Sheriff’s Office uses for training exercises.
“It gives the deputies a place where they can go shoot and train ever day,” he continued.
The facility is leased to produce its own revenue as is the Probation and Parole Office building near the building.
“Everything on this road is Mike Cazes’ idea and I’m the person who got it done,” Cazes said. “Everything is paid for and I don’t owe one red cent to anybody and the taxpayers don’t owe red cent.”
He’s also proud of the effort he contributed to make the state’s reinvestment program a reality, a program designed to prepare incarcerated prisoners to reenter society upon their release.
“I am thankful God gave me the strength to create and work with Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc (of the state Department of Corrections) to fulfill his goal to give them a chance,” Cazes said.
The program has provided funding for a $150,000 classroom in Port Allen, so inmates are now learning in a true school-like atmosphere.
“My next goal is use state funding to buy computers so inmates can learn a skill,” Cazes said. “That’s my goal.”