Gray runs for Sheriff on 30 years’ experience
Editor’s Note: There are three candidates running for Sheriff of St. John Parish: Clarence Gray Jr., Mike Tregre, and Juan “Shug” Watkins Sr. Each of the candidates will be featured over the next few editions prior to early voting, which begins Sept. 25.
LAPLACE — Major Clarence Gray Jr.’s hard work paid off during his 30 years with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he worked his way up through the ranks from patrol officer to executive assistant before retiring in May.
Gray said experience gained during his tenure has prepared him to take on the role of St. John Parish Sheriff, the top law enforcement officer responsible for protecting the local community.
He will appear on the ballot Oct. 12 alongside Juan “Shug” Watkins and incumbent Sheriff Mike Tregre. If none of the three candidates achieve 50 percent of the vote, a run-off between the top two vote getters will take place Nov. 16.
“I’m passionate about running for Sheriff because I’m a 30-year vet with the Sheriff’s Office,” Gray said. “My passion is helping and caring for the people of this community.”
According to Gray, a successful Sheriff must be a proven leader who operates with compassion, fairness and integrity. If elected to the position, one of Gray’s primary goals will be to revitalize community relations within the St. John Sheriff’s Office.
“I really would like to get the connection back and the communication between the sheriff’s office and the community,” Gray said. “I feel it’s very important for us to communicate with each other because it’s a big asset in solving crime.”
He hopes to improve treatment of the community by ensuring everyone is seen as equal, regardless of color, creed, location of residence within the parish. Gray said that same principal extends to all SJSO employees to promote equity in the workplace.
Gray plans to expand partnerships with local entities, including the St. John Parish School Board.
“I’m a big advocate of making our streets safer, especially for our kids,” Gray said. “We need more programs and partnerships to develop after school programs.”
Gray would also form partnerships with local clergy, recognizing pastors and priests are often the first point of contact for families in distress. He has delivered several hours of training seminars on ‘House of Worship Safety and Security’ to local clergy personnel.
Over the years, Gray has participated in hostage negotiation classes, SWAT Team training and FBI National Academy training. He is also a graduate of the LSU Basic Law Enforcement Academy, where he received his Peace Officer Standards and Training certification.
His relevant career experience includes not only operations in the field, but also supervising and commanding of several high profile units, including the Uniform Patrol Division, the Felony Intercept Unit (Street Crimes Unit), the Special Operations Response Team, and the St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority Special Operations Unit (Community Policing).
After graduating from William Carey College in Mississippi with a bachelors of science degree in education, Gray returned home to St. John the Baptist Parish to join the patrol unit. He advanced to supervisor for the housing development for the East and West Bank, where he made sure the community members were satisfied with their living conditions.
From there, he became a supervisor for a proactive unit under Sheriff Wayne Jones called the felony intercept unit.
“We worked mostly evenings and nights and adjusted our schedules to fit the operation,” Gray said. “We dealt with drug dealers and small criminals.”
Gray also represented SJSO in the infamous Daniel Blank homicide trial, during which he was stationed in Avoyelles Parish for one month for jury selection.
Following a short-term return to patrol supervisor for the 100 shift, Gray was promoted once more to assistant commander of control. When Sheriff Mike Tregre was elected, Gray became commander of patrol before moving to executive assistant.
Campaign manager Lawrence Garrison said Gray’s experience, qualifications and passion make him a well-respected candidate for Sheriff.
“He’s always had a passion for the community, and I don’t see him changing as sheriff,” Garrison said. “He was available then, and I’m sure he will be available when he becomes sheriff.”
Gray, a graduate of East St. John High School, said his leadership skills trace back to junior high, when he became captain of the basketball team. He was captain once again for his collegiate basketball team at William Carey College.
To learn more about Gray’s campaign, visit clarencegrayforsheriff.com or follow @clarencegrayforsheriff on Facebook and Instagram.