JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - On the day Sheriff Newell Normand stepped into the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office media room and uttered words that dropped like a ton of bricks, his wife, children and dearest friends stood nearby as cameras captured his every word and movement.
"I think I will miss, I will miss the people here, I've been here my entire adult life…Thinking about 1,500 men and women going home every night, it wears on you," Normand said, choking up.
His decision to leave did not come without his life partner's input.
"We absolutely discussed it at great length. Very excited for him. It definitely is a great opportunity for him. He's looking forward to it, very bittersweet for all of us. You know this is our life but he'll do well, he'll do well," said Shawn Normand.
"You know, I've known Newell since he was 12 years old, and so just knowing that he worked with my father for so long and that
I've known him the majority of my life it's a bittersweet day, it's an emotional day for me, but I'm so happy for him, it's a new challenge in his life," said Jefferson Parish Councilwoman-at-Large Cynthia Lee Sheng.
Normand was a loyal protégé' of her father, the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee.
Mentored by Lee, Normand has political tentacles that stretch far and wide. Though a Republican, he endorsed Democrat John Bel Edwards for Louisiana's governor against fellow Republican David Vitter. Edwards won the election in a solidly "red" state.
But in the hours leading up to the announcement, Normand was not out front about his decision.
"I didn't hear about it until this morning and it kind of shocked me, but then when I think about it, it doesn't shock me," said State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner.
Martiny, a lawyer, has represented the sheriff's office since Sheriff Lee's days.
"I've pretty much grown up with Newell in the Sheriff's Office. I've been doing this work the same 37 years that he has and I've had the pleasure of knowing him. He's incredibly smart. I don't exactly know why he wants to go into the news media, but if that's what he wants to do that he'll be good at it, you know he will be and you won't have any problem getting a straight answer out of him," Martiny said.
Former Jefferson Parish Assessor Lawrence Chehardy is also a dear friend of Normand's.
"It's a great loss for Jefferson Parish but as the sheriff said in everybody's career there is a point where you know it's time to step aside and a true leader knows when to step aside," said Chehardy.
Chehardy has advice for Normand's hand-picked interim replacement.
"I would tell Joe to be his own man. He knows this is a good department and what you do you build on it," Chehardy stated.
Parish President Mike Yenni also reacted to the news.
"I like everybody want to thank Newell for his service of nearly 40 years with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and my office looks forward to working with interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto and as always we will offer our full support and cooperation. Joe Lopinto certainly will offer a fresh perspective and like Newell he worked under the no nonsense leadership of Sheriff Harry Lee," Yenni told FOX 8 News.
While the sheriff will have no problem talking when he begins his career as a radio host being in the media is something different.
"There are a lot of my skills I'm going to have to hone in a very short period of time to what y'all do," said Normand.
FOX 8 News asked his wife about the new territory where taking live calls from radio listeners may be different from the interactions Normand may be accustomed to while in the public as sheriff of the second most populous parish in the state.
"I wasn't quite prepared for what came with being a sheriff's wife, so I'll adapt, I know," said Mrs. Normand.