Hedrick, Lewis oaths usher in new eras

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Concordia Parish Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick hugs his granddaughter Olivia Grace, 3, as he and his wife, Linda, listen to speakers at his swearing-in ceremony Friday evening at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

VIDALIA — Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis and Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick have many goals in common, but one rang true Friday during their respective swearing in ceremonies — serve the people of Concordia Parish.

The two long-time law enforcement officials took an oath of office Friday and were sworn in to begin their first four-year terms in office.

Hedrick will become the 35th sheriff for Concordia Parish since 1805, replacing outgoing-Sheriff Randy Maxwell, who served as sheriff for 22 years.

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Lewis was elected police chief in March, after winning a special election for the seat in April 2011. Lewis served as chief on an interim basis for five months before the special election.

Family, friends and co-workers surrounded the two law enforcement officials to help usher in their new eras.

Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis places one hand in the air and the other on the Bible his wife, Cheryl, is holding as he takes his oath and is sworn in as police chief by Vidalia City Judge George Murray Friday afternoon at the City Court.

Give him a call

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland and Maxwell didn’t hesitate to offer the entire crowd that gathered Friday evening at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center an opportunity to get the new sheriff’s cell phone number.

“At 12:01 (a.m.), you can start calling him,” Maxwell said laughing. “And at 12:01 (a.m.), you’re life is going to change forever.

“I think he’s been training for this position for years, and I know he’s ready for it.”

Maxwell took a moment to recall Hedrick’s law enforcement career, and even a certain occasion between the two.

“Kenneth was the first law enforcement officer I met in Concordia Parish when I came here in 1972,” Maxwell said. “But I’m not going to tell you about those circumstances.”

Since that first encounter, Maxwell said he knew Hedrick was destined for great things.

“You can do a whole lot with a Christian man with a big heart, who is honest and compassionate,” Maxwell said. “It’s a big job, and he’s going to make some mistakes, so he needs your support and your patience.

“But he’s been there every morning so far ready to learn. We’re just proud of you.”

Recalling a 1 a.m. phone call he received recently, Copeland said he hoped the sheriff was ready to start being woken up by calls at all hours of the night.

“You’re going to receive those 1 a.m. phone calls, and if he doesn’t give you his phone number, I’ll give it to you,” Copeland said to the crowd.

“All I ask of you is for you to work with the people of this parish and have an open door policy.

“He’s got some big shoes to fill, but he’s going to do it.”

Hedrick kept his speech short and sweet after being sworn in, but didn’t leave the phone number issue unaddressed.

“I think everybody’s already got my phone number,” Hedrick said. “This is your sheriff’s office, and I just want to do the right thing and be honest.”

Common sense

If there’s ever a law, statue or ordinance that’s unclear for the Vidalia police chief, it can easily be found in one book — the Bible.

“The law is common sense — it’s what your daddy told you, it’s what your momma told you to do,” Lewis said. “It’s just about doing the right thing — that’s all this is.”

After serving so much time in the position without an official swearing-in gathering, Lewis took the time to appreciate the momentous occasion.

“I’ve had to go through a lot of things to get here, and will still go through a lot of things, but this is my day,” Lewis said. “Being a police officer is all about treating the people right.

“I have a job to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

Lewis traced his law enforcement career back to when he was just a dispatcher and thanked those around him for supporting him along the way.

“I just wanted to be a police officer, and it means a lot to me seeing my friends and family here around me,” Lewis said. “The only thing I want to do is serve the people and succeed in the job in front of me.”