Sheriff Office History
On December 20, 1803, France formally transferred the Louisiana territory to the United States and the American flag at last flew over Louisiana and the pioneer settlers of the Catholic Church Parish of Ascension. A year later, on December 4, 1804, the Orleans Territory was divided into twelve counties. The county of Acadia, comprised of the parishes of Ascension and St. James, was created. These parishes were known as the First and Second Acadian Coast. In 1805, the first county officials were named and Gaspar Dubuys was appointed the first district sheriff. In 1807, the Orleans territory was sub-divided into nineteen parishes with Ascension becoming one of the original parishes of Louisiana. The office of county judge was abolished and the office of parish judge was created. This official, Edward Turner, became ex-officio judge of probate, clerk, sheriff and notary for the parish of Ascension.
The Office of Parish Sheriff was created on March 16, 1810. It was an appointed office and Walter Mears served as the first exclusive Sheriff for Ascension. He served four years, 1811-1816. Through the years, the population of the parish grew steadily as more people and more cultures discovered the bountiful hunting and fishing and rich farm lands available to support their families in Ascension Parish. A population of 2,219 in 1810 grew to 23,887 in 1910. Many fine men dealt with the increase in population and the ever-increasing demand for effective law enforcement during these formative years with several of them having extended years of service and multiple terms in office. Hubert Treille served 19 year tenure, starting in 1827, while John Comstock served 13 year tenure, beginning in 1846. Peter Jones served 12 years, starting in 1876 and Sam St. Martin served 17 years, starting in 1891. Sheriff Edward Hanson, whose 12-year term in office began in 1908, served as Chief Deputy for 9 years under Sheriff Sam St. Martin, along with serving as President of the Lafourche Levee Board before becoming Sheriff.
George Richard also served a 12 year term. Prior to becoming Sheriff in 1920, George Richard served as Chief Deputy for several years under Sheriff Edward C. Hanson. Sheriff Richard retired as Sheriff in 1932. Sheriff Richard also served as Mayor of Donaldsonville for one term and was at one time Postmaster of Donaldsonville. Victor Mire served as Sheriff from 1932 to 1936. Prior to becoming Sheriff, Mr. Mire served with the Louisiana State Police. He also served the parish as Registrar of Voters and Justice of the Peace. Lester Gonzales followed with yet another 12 year stint from 1936 to 1948 and was Chief Deputy for four years prior to becoming Sheriff. He was the first member of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to attend the prestigious F.B.I. National Academy. From 1920 to 1924, Mr. Gonzales was a Deputy Marshall for the Town of Gonzales. After leaving the Sheriff’s Office, Mr. Gonzales became Postmaster in the Town of Gonzales until 1956. He became involved in law enforcement again and retired in 1960 as a Deputy Sheriff.
The so called “modern era” for the parish, as well as for its sheriff’s department, began with the election of a man who ran for the office almost as an afterthought. Hickley Waguespack’s election in 1948 marked a revolutionary change in the manner in which the department was organized. Even though it had grown considerably, Ascension was still designated as a rural parish and the issues facing law enforcement were still in many ways elementary. It was big news, for example, when in 1954, Sheriff Waguespack gave the directive that all deputies would dress in uniform as a way to help professionalize the department’s image. During his 24 year tenure, Sheriff Waguespack increased his staff from a few deputies to a well trained force of more than 50 law enforcement professionals. He was introduced to the political world in the midst of corruption developed during the “Old Regime”, when the parish was infested with organized crime and rampant gambling. By 1949, he had effectively shut down the gambling rings, significantly curbed crime in the parish, and created an atmosphere of safety among parish citizens. It was evident to all that there was a “new sheriff in town”, a fact that led Hickley to six subsequent reelections. Perhaps his greatest achievement came when Waguespack exhibited supreme management and operational abilities in the handling of the federally mandated desegregation laws in the early 1960s. His was one of the few parishes to handle this volatile time in American history with a minimum of disruptions and virtually no violence. He was so adept at handling race relations that a feature article was done on him in “Ebony” magazine. As his reputation grew, so did his capability. These skills proved beneficial in promoting a climate of industrial and economic growth in the parish. Richard Coriell became Sheriff in 1972, after serving as Chief Deputy for 24 years under Sheriff Waguespack. Sheriff Coriell chose to retire in 1974, after serving 26 years in law enforcement. Prior to his law enforcement career, Sheriff Coriell worked with the Louisiana Department of Highways for approximately 20 years and four years with the Federal Housing Authority.
Sheriff Harold L. Tridico was elected for his initial term in 1974, and for the next 22 years, he would oversee law enforcement with an iron fist and an iron jaw. Sheriff Tridico, a lifelong resident of Ascension Parish and a veteran of the United States Navy, served in the South Pacific during World War II and participated in the invasion of Okinawa and subsequent landing of occupational troops in Japan. He began his career with the sheriff’s office in 1948 and worked both criminal and civil operations before becoming Chief Deputy in 1972. Upon the retirement of Sheriff Richard Coriell, Tridico decided to seek the office of Sheriff and was victorious in a field of six candidates. The unprecedented growth of the parish presented problems to his administration that would have been unfathomable to Sheriff Tridico’s predecessors. In the face of an economic recession, escalating race relations, and a growing national crime rate, Sheriff Tridico’s insightful preparation for the future of crime fighting and his instinctive organizational skills for law enforcement did more than just continue the momentum built in previous administrations. The community’s confidence in his ability to run the sheriff’s department led to five consecutive reelections. It is without question that Harold Tridico is considered one of Ascension Parish’s greatest administrators and one of its most successful law enforcement officials.
Through much of the remarkable career of Sheriff Tridico, his right hand man, and his most promising protégé, was his Chief Deputy Jeffrey Wiley. Jeff Wiley, first elected in 1996, is currently serving his fifth term as Sheriff. If following one legend is considered a daunting task, then following two local legends could have been overwhelming, but the people of Ascension once again proved their collective wisdom in choosing Sheriff Wiley. Few could have known in 1996, how insightful, intellectual, imaginative, and impressive he would be in the performance of his duties. During the fastest and largest growth period ever experienced in the parish, with cut backs and deficit spending by the federal government, and with severe blows to the parish’s economic support engine (the decline of the petrochemical industry in our area) Sheriff Wiley has impressed even his most ardent detractors. The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has become one of the most technologically savvy and advanced departments in the state. Nationally recognized for its organization, communication, and crime fighting systems and expertise, Sheriff Wiley and his department have been recognized as leaders in the world of law enforcement, as well as in the war on terror. Ascension Parish is considered “The Model” for other local law enforcement to study and to learn from its leadership. Sheriff Wiley led the department through the harrowing experience of September 11, 2001 and led the efforts for interoperability among local, state and federal agencies throughout Louisiana. As President of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, Sheriff Wiley took charge of the sheriff’s statewide law enforcement response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Life in Ascension Parish is comfortable and enjoyable. We take great pride and solace in being able to exist in the joy and comfort of our homes and in our community. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the many members of law enforcement who work every day, allowing us to partake in these simple pleasures. Above all, we are forever thankful and take this moment to recognize the leaders of the generations of deputies and support staff in our law enforcement organizations. Here and now, we salute the long line of Sheriffs of Ascension Parish.