- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - For one pageant staple, this will be his last year to be a part of the main event.

After 36 years of working security for the Miss Mississippi Pageant, this is Sgt. Leroy Williams’s final pageant to watch over the contestants throughout their week of competition.

A new Miss Mississippi will be crowned Saturday night.

“I’ll miss the people,” Williams said.

During the week Williams follows the girls to their many rehearsals, interviews and across town to make sure they stay safe. He is pretty much with the contestants at all times and doesn’t get much downtime at all.

“It’s just like raising 44 teenage daughters all at one time,” Williams said.

His favorite part of the week is the final night of competition.

Even though he is constantly on the lookout and often moving around the exhibit hall, he tries to catch some of the show.

“I enjoy watching the final act,” Williams said.

Another highlight is seeing the contestants interact with their fans at the autograph signing parties. He said it gives him a unique perspective on who the contestants are and what they bring to Mississippi.

“I get to see the future of our state through their eyes and listen to them as they talk about their life experiences, what they want to do, who they want to be, where they’re headed,” he said.

Williams has a granddaughter who was a princess in the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, and he said she aspires to be Miss America someday.

During his years of service, Williams not only oversaw the pageants but also spent much of his time working traffic, event security and overseeing dignitary visits.

Williams has been in law enforcement since 1976 when he started at the Vicksburg Police Department.

Twenty years later in 1996, Williams entered into his first retirement with a credit of 21 and a half years because of his built up vacation and sick leave.

“I never took off,” Williams said.

Just two years later in 1998 he returned to law enforcement, this time in the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

“I got a chance to come back and fulfill what I should have never left,” Williams said. “Just a different uniform, same ole job.”

Williams is hanging up his uniform and badge for the final time in January to spend more time with his family and wife, or as he calls her “Ms. Dianne.”

“I enjoy my work. It’s just time to hang it up,” Williams said. “I’m going to spend a little time chasing grandkids.”

___

Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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