SORRENTO, Louisiana — Fern Barnett, a 71-year-old great-grandmother, is running to be the next Sorrento chief of police Nov. 4.
In doing so, Barnett has likely prevented the quick end to the police department that town officials have been building momentum toward for more than a year.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/XCvRdC ) Barnett, who recently retired as assistant town clerk, qualified Wednesday to run for the remaining term of former Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr.
Barnett's candidacy puts a widely expected twist on a town proposition also on the ballot Nov. 4: Town voters will be asked whether they should abolish both the position of the elected police chief and the Police Department.
The measure was brought forward amid turmoil in the Police Department and the resignation and conviction of Theriot in February for lying to an FBI officer.
Barnett's candidacy means Sorrento voters will either have a new chief selected — if she is unopposed — or will be asked Nov. 4 to elect a chief, and at the same time decide whether to abolish the chief's position and the department.
Barnett, a Democrat, said she believes the majority of Sorrento's 1,500 residents want to keep the department. She said she has had a lot of encouragement about running and believes having a Police Department is important for Sorrento's identity as its own community.
"I mean if you get rid of the Police Department, you're going backward, not moving forward," she said.
Barnett, who is petite and stands about 5-feet tall, said that if elected, she does not plan to patrol the streets.
"I probably couldn't chase anyone down and tackle them now," Barnett said, but she added that she sees the job as an administrative one.
In the early 1980s, Barnett served one term as town alderwoman and for many years was involved as volunteer in the town's signature but now defunct Boucherie Festival.
She said she is hopeful that, if elected and if she gets cooperation from Mayor Mark Lambert and the Town Council, she can have the department back on its feet and eventually hire new officers until a new chief can take over.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com
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