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Melton survives, Wyatt defeated in police jury runoffs

Five new jurors will join in 2024
Caleb Daniel
Saturday, November 18, 2023
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Five new faces will join the Lincoln Parish Police Jury now that the primary and runoff election dust has settled.

In Saturday’s three runoff races to round out the parish government roster, jury Vice President Milton Melton narrowly won reelection in District 10, Greg “Big Coach” Williams unseated longtime juror Theresa Wyatt in District 1, and newcomer Diane Heard Richards won the District 11 race.

Williams and Richards will join Karen Ludley in District 2, Dan Lord in District 3 and Chris “Moose” Garriga in District 8 as the newcomers on the parish governing body in January.

Ludley won a two-way race in October after incumbent Hazel Hunter did not seek reelection, Lord defeated incumbent jury President Richard Durrett in the biggest landslide of the election, and Garriga qualified unopposed after incumbent Skip Russell did not seek reelection.

District 1

Williams carried the runoff over Wyatt by 28 ballots, earning 269 votes to Wyatt’s 241.

“Campaigning is hard and tiresome, but I really want to make a difference,” Williams said Saturday night after the results rolled in. “I want to make the parish better. Looking forward to it, and looking forward to working with the police jurymen and the city to make District 1 and all of Lincoln Parish moving forward.”

District 1’s 22.7% voter turnout on the night, while low, nonetheless was the highest in the parish in this election.

Wyatt, who’s sat on the jury for 16 years, initially announced before the qualifying period that she would would not seek reelection. But on the first day of qualifying she reentered the race, saying her constituents persuaded her to try for another term.

Williams and Wyatt easily dispatched third contender Will Edwards in the October primary and seemed neck and neck as the runoff results came in Saturday night. Wyatt led the early voting period but lost ground as election-day precincts continued to report.

Williams said it was his history as a well-known coach in Ruston and Grambling that helped him connect with constituents and made the difference at the polls.
“Everybody knows me,” he said. “The young people who I coached are grownups now. They knew what I stood for because I coached them.”

Now that the campaign is done, the real work begins, he said.

“It’s time to go to work,” Williams said. “Campaigning is one thing, but now I’ve got to put forth the effort for the things I envisioned for District 1 as well as the rest of the parish.”

District 10

Melton secured his second term in office by 21 votes, outpacing challenger Gary Wayne Baldwin 198 to 177.

“I thank God for the victory,” he said Saturday night. “All glory goes to him. I thank my wife who supported me through all this and the voting constituents of District 10. 

“I want to give kudos to my opponent. He ran a clean race, didn’t start mudslinging and all this, didn’t write letters. He ran a clean campaign, and I admire him for that.”

Turnout in the District 10 runoff was 17.3%. Melton and Baldwin pulled away from other challenger Morris Winters in the October primary. Melton held the early vote count in the runoff and never lost the lead.

“I stuck to the gameplan,” Melton said. “I put a lot of time in going door to door in the primary and went back and visited again with the voters.

“I will continue to try to serve District 10 and the parish to the best of my ability and make sure I represent the people and myself with dignity and respect.”

District 11

It was a runoff of newcomers in District 11 after Richards and Patsy Candler ousted incumbent juror Sharyon Mayfield.

After leading the pack in the primary, Richards did so again in a low-turnout contest Saturday, gaining 175 votes to Candler’s 126. It was the biggest margin of the three races, with Richards taking 58% of the vote.

“I am overwhelmed and excited,” Richards said. “I thank God and my family who was so willing to go out and help me run this race and finish where I started. It was a long, tough race. I’m ready to work.”

Turnout for District 11 was 15.7%.

Richards said the campaign for the primary was more difficult as a first-time candidate.

“The second time, as I was going back from door to door, they got real comfortable with me,” she said. “They entrusted in me that I could do what I said I could do."