Third Sheriff Jordan elected in Winn Parish

By Tom Kelly
Editor and Publisher

"Sheriff Jordan" is a name and title combination that is quite familiar to residents of Winn Parish, going back decades to the first Sheriff Sanford Jordan who served five terms beginning in 1956, to Sheriff Buddy Jordan (no relation) who served four terms beginning in 1992.

It's not a family dynasty-type succession. Cranford Jordan of Winnfield made it the hard way, on the third try, winning a 62 percent majority in a runoff after gathering 32 percent of the vote in an 11-candidate field in September, 2011. Now, after a career spanning over 30 years in law enforcement and more recently as the "push" behind development of the Winn Parish Fire District and the local 911 emergency response system, Cranford Jordan, at age 59, will assume the office on July 1, 2012, that he first ran for in 1979--Sheriff of Winn Parish, Louisiana.

How does he view the prospects? "It will be the biggest challenge I've ever faced in my life," he said, alluding to the half-million dollar debt the office currently struggles with, the need for a new parish jail facility, staffing for regular parish patrols, and other problems related to the arrest last year of the last elected Sheriff, Bodie Little, who is in prison in Shreveport, awaiting trial on charges involving drugs and other matters. The Winn Sheriff's Office has been under management of the chief office deputy, acting Sheriff Brenda Usrey, since Sheriff Little was arrested.

Cranford Jordan was born September 20, 1952, "delivered by Dr. George Rodgers," as he now says with pride, and grew up on Center Street in Winnfield. His father, the late Cranford Jordan, Sr. was an employee at Tremont Lumber Company at Joyce, where he operated the lumber dry kiln. Upon Cranford's graduation from Winnfield Senior High School in 1970, he looked forward to a job at the mill. But his father had other ideas. Lacking education himself, having gotten as far as elementary grades at the old Jordan Hill school in rural Winn Parish, he told his son, "You're my only chance to have a son go to college." At that time, Tremont Lumber Company awarded up to five college scholarships to children of employees, and Cranford was one of five Tremont family graduates that year. He received $1,000 a year to attend Louisiana Tech in Ruston. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration, with minor in personnel management at Tech. But where he came into his own was in courses in criminal justice, where he aced the courses with a 4.0 average. He later earned the Associate degree in criminal justice at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, while working as an investigator in the office of Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Sam James. And, he took a Master's Degree in criminal justice at University of Louisiana in Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University). Earlier, while working as a deputy in Winn Parish during the administration of his uncle, the first Sheriff Sanford Jordan, he became one of the first from Winn to attend the Basic Law Enforcement Academy at LSU in 1974, finishing first in his class.

Cranford Jordan first worked as a deputy for his uncle Sanford, beginning on a part-time basis while in his final year at Louisiana Tech. He later worked in the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff's office as an investigator, and made his first race for the Winn Parish office in 1979, against former Winnfield City policeman Dan Page, who won the spot and served for 3 terms.

Cranford was appointed Police Chief for the City of Winnfield, serving 1980-1994.

Sheriff-elect Jordan sat for this interview in mid-December in the ready room at the Central Station of Winn Parish Fire District No. 3, of which he has served as Chief since 2000. Central station is located on State Highway 501, on the north side of Winnfield, about a block down the road from the Winnfield Senior High School football stadium. The District serves all of Winn Parish except the City of Winnfield, and is one of two public service entities that for the past ten years have occupied the political and administrative efforts of the man who will soon move to the Court House office that has been on his mind for the better part of thirty years.

When the District was created by act of the Winn Parish Police Jury in 1997, rural areas of the parish beyond the borders of the Parish seat of Winnfield had a rating of Class 10. Under the rating bureau rules Class 10 the equivalent of no fire protection, making insurance for structures either unavailable, or prohibitively expensive.

Today, the District-wide rating stands at Class 5, which makes insurance affordable for all rural areas in the parish. (City of Winnfield Fire Department has risen to Class 3, among the highest for municipalities its size in the State.)

First funding for the District came in 1996 from two rural development grants to the Police Jury from the State of Louisiana. In July 1998, voters in the Parish approve a millage tax for the District, which was approved by 75 percent of those voting.

Ten years later, the tax to support the Fire District was approved by a 98 percent vote, because, Jordan said, "We did what we said we'd do."

What they did was establish fire stations in the incorporated municipalities of Atlanta, Calvin, Dodson, Sikes, and the communities of Brewton's Mill, Cypress Creek, Saline Lake, St. Maurice, Wheeling, Jordan Hill, Ward Two, Joyce, and Shady Grove.

Each station is equipped with a pumper truck, and the stations at Dodson, Sikes, Brewton's Mill, Saline Lake, St. Maurice, Jordan Hill, and Joyce also have tanker trucks.

Central station has two brand new pumper trucks, delivered in June 2011 at a total cost of $550,000, for which the District paid cash.

After this major capital expenditure, the District retains a substantial cash balance, held in certificates of deposit, to fund any needed replacement and addition to the equipment.

Equipment at Central Station also includes two large tanker trucks, a rescue vehicle, and a trailer with educational exhibits for use in fire prevention classes.

The District is governed by a board of directors, including Kenneth Womack of Sikes, president; Loyd Vines of Dodson, vice president; Louis Franks, Calvin, secretary; Raymond Whittington of Atlanta, John Henry Martin of Calvin, and Billy Herrod, Saline Lake.

Central Station has a large ready room with dining tables, a kitchen, a variety of communication equipment, an office with a secretary, Mrs. Margaret Buford, and an apartment upstairs where paid firemen come in on shifts to maintain a 24-hour presence. Community stations are staffed by about 100 regular volunteers.

Cranford is married to the former Dianne Greenlee of Shreveport, whom he met at the wedding of a mutual friend. She teaches special education at Calvin school in Winn Parish. They have 2 children; Chris employed in Baton Rouge with the Department of Public Safety and Hannah a student at ULM in Monroe. The Jordans are members of First Baptist Church in Winnfield.

Another of Cranford's abilities is cooking. On the day of our interview, he had a large pot of collard greens on the stove at Central Station, the greens donated by Volunteer Lavelle Bartley of Jordan Hill. Cranford invited me to come back at noon when the collards would be served with his special fried cornbread. Resting under aluminum foil on the stove were two hearty looking briskets which he had prepared for the Winnfield Fire Department's Christmas get-together later that week.

Did I go back for the collards? You guess.