NEW ORLEANS -- Longtime St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens won't say "yes" or "no" in public, but sources close to the sheriff say, he's privately announced he won't seek re-election in the fall.
It would be the end of a nearly 30-year career as the head of parish law enforcement, and it has candidates clamoring to run for the office.
Stephens most recently ran for re-election in 2007, but the race got ugly between Stephens and local notary Larry Landry.
All indications are that may have been Stephens' final run.
“I plan on being a candidate in the sheriff's race. Just remember the election is not until October. I have a very important job at this point, and I want to stay focused on the job,” said Jimmy Pohlmann.
Pohlmann is currently Stephens' chief deputy in charge of day-to-day operations of the office. Pohlmann has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
“It's going to be an open seat. Obviously that's going to draw more people into the race,” Pohlmann said.
Councilman Wayne Landry said he decided to run for the office a year ago, regardless of whether Stephens runs for re-election.
“He's running anyway isn't he? Even if he doesn't put his name in the hat, he's going to have some of his people running. So, I don't think there's a difference there,” Landry said about his possible competition in the race.
Landry's only been on the Parish Council three years, and now, he's making it clear he wants another job.
“When you look at my college education, and we're not talkin’ about some little certificate courses, my actual curriculum, was police administration, criminal justice,” Landry said about what he believes his qualifications are.
Another of Stephens' department heads are also putting his name out there, in big, bold letters on Judge Perez Drive.
“My name recognition's not out there like Jimmy's is out there. I wanted to make sure that I come out and announce,” said Chad Clark, another confirmed candidate.
Clark is the head of narcotics for the Sheriff's Office.
“I have 18 years of law enforcement experience. It's not like we have to go and re-invent the wheel. Obviously we have a great sheriff's department. There's always room for improvement,” Clark said.
If Stephens doesn't run, it would be one of the most significant shifts in St. Bernard politics in years.
“St. Bernard has been through a lot. And that means everyone in public office in St. Bernard has been through a lot. He has survived some fairly close elections recently,” said WWL-TV Political Analyst and Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos, about the possibility of Stephens not running for re-election.
Late Wednesday, past candidate Barry Bernadas told Eyewitness News he does plan to run for Sheriff again this fall. Larry Landry didn't return our phone calls seeking comment.