Two plan to run for Vidalia police chief

Published 1:42 am Friday, November 20, 2015

VIDALIA — Qualifying is still two weeks away, but at least two men plan to run for Vidalia’s chief of police position.

Incumbent Police Chief Arthur Lewis, who is in his sixth year as police chief, will face a challenge from a political newcomer, former Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Agent Joey Merrill.

Lewis, a 35-year law enforcement veteran who has served as a military policeman, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy and Vidalia policeman, was appointed to a six-month term in 2010 when former chief Tapper Hendricks stepped down, and was later elected to serve out the rest of Hendricks’ term. Lewis was elected to his first full term in 2012.

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“I never had the aspirations to be a leader, I only wanted to help, but the good Lord only knows what he has in store for you,” Lewis said.

“I am so proud we have been able to serve the people of this community, the ones who supported me and the ones who didn’t, and we are serving the people they way they should be served.”

Lewis said he is not going to frame his re-election bid in terms of unfinished work.

“I am not going to ask the voters to let me finish what I have started, because nothing lasts forever except the word of God, but I am asking them to look at my record and our statistics, the crime rate and our recovery rate from when things have been stolen.”

Merrill is a 1997 graduate of Vidalia High School who served eight years in the Louisiana Army National Guard, including serving in Iraq.

He served as a member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement division for 11 years, a job that he said required extensive training and close work with local state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“If elected chief of police of the City of Vidalia, I believe I can truly make a difference,” he said. “I want to provide Vidalia with the best officers to serve the people. I will ensure that officers are properly educated and trained so they can make good, common-sense and educated decisions when it comes to enforcing the law.”

Merrill said his first priority would be public safety, and would make fiscally conservative decisions with the budget so the police department is not a burden on the city.

“I know that I can use my training and experience to make positive changes within the department, making Vidalia a safer place to live, protect the property of citizens and local businesses,” he said. “I want Vidalia to be a place where we can ensure that our kids can grow up in a safe environment.”

Qualifying for the race is Dec. 2 to 4. The election will be in March.