Mermentau post, ‘almost volunteer position,’ vacant
By Billy Gunn
February 22, 2013
LAFAYETTE — Qualifying for the April 6 election for chief of police in Mermentau starts again Wednesday and ends Friday, a fourth try since November to entice a candidate to run for a job that pays $200 a month.
Other three-day qualifying periods — Nov. 6-8, Nov. 14-16 and Feb. 13-15 — failed to attract candidates.
“When you’re in a small village, it’s almost a volunteer position,” said Julie Borill, an Acadia Parish police juror whose District B covers the village of Mermentau.
“That’s a lot of responsibility for someone,” Borill said.
The police chief’s position is currently vacant, Mermentau Assistant Clerk Tara Doucet said.
The village has gone through two chiefs, maybe three, in the past two years. The Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections, lists Ricky S. Istre II as chief, the Acadia Parish Police Jury’s website lists Donald Bertrand as chief, and the assistant clerk for Mermentau said the most recent chief was Amber Duvois.
The U.S. Census Bureau lists the population of Mermentau as of July 2011 as 663.
Mermentau officials on Tuesday were reluctant to discuss in detail the lack of a chief to head the village’s one-patrol car operation.
Ernest “Sheeney” Gautreaux, one of three on the village Board of Aldermen, said: “Nobody wants to qualify. That’s all I know.”
Gautreaux said the job pays about $200 a month, and that he didn’t recall the last time the Board of Aldermen discussed the issue at the body’s meetings on the second Monday of each month.
On Tuesday, a call to the Mermentau Police Department was answered by a recorded message that said to dial 911 if it was an emergency, and non-emergencies were given the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office telephone number.
Currently, Acadia sheriff’s deputies patrol the village, Doucet said.
Attempts to contact Mayor David Fruge were unsuccessful.
A call to Fruge’s home was not answered. Neither Doucet nor Gautreaux would release Fruge’s cellular number or say where he worked.
Attempts to contact the village’s other two board members, Darla Istre and Troy Cormier, also were not successful.
Mermentau’s situation is not unique, said Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Currently in Union Parish, the village of Lillie is having trouble finding candidates for chief of police and mayor, Casper said.
“It’s not horribly unusual … especially in small towns,” Casper said.
“If no one qualifies (by Friday evening), a vacancy will be declared and the local governing authority has 20 days to appoint someone who is qualified,” Casper said.
After 20 days, the Mermentau Board of Aldermen will call for another election, she said.
Borill said her husband, Anthony, is in a similar “volunteer” post in Estherwood, a village that sits less than 10 miles east of Mermentau.
Anthony Borill is mayor of Estherwood while keeping a full-time job in the private sector. Estherwood also has an elected police chief who gets paid very little but is responsible for so much,” Julie Borill said.
“I think that’s their (Mermentau’s) biggest hurdle,” she said, “finding someone who wants to volunteer because that’s pretty much what it is.
“You’re on call 24/7,” Borill said. “(The Estherwood) chief does it because he likes it.”
Acadia Parish Clerk of Court Robert “Robby” Barousse also did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.