About 18 years ago on their very first date, Phillip Terrell mentioned to Vicki, who would become his future bride, his lifelong ambition to become a district attorney. “It seems dreams do come true,” Phillip, says with a big grin. In January, he was sworn into office as the new district attorney for Rapides Parish. “We know God has blessed us. We are getting our dream life together. We had these long-term plans, and we know it’s the Lord’s blessing to see it come to fruition,” says Vicki, echoing her husband’s sentiment.
Vicki says it has always been her dream to be a wife and a mother full-time. The two met through a mutual friend. Phillip grew up in Pineville and graduated in 1975 from Alexandria Country Day School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Louisiana College, and graduated from the Louisiana State University Law School in 1982.
Following law school, Phillip served as a law clerk for a few years with his mentor, Charles Wagner, a former district attorney. In 1985, Phillip opened his own law firm in Pineville. Vicki grew up in Rapides Parish and graduated from Holy Savior Menard Central High School in Alexandria. After high school, she majored in finance and graduated from Louisiana State University. Vicki worked in the world of finance at an area bank following her time at LSU. There, a co-worker introduced her to her future husband. In 1998, Phillip and Vicki were married. They reside in Pineville with their daughter, Shelby, age 17, and their son, Mason, 15. Phillip’s oldest daughter, Megan, is married and teaches at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired in Baton Rouge.
At an early age, both Vicki and Phillip’s parents instilled in them the value of family, hard work, education and “giving back” to the community. For seven years, Phillip served as the Pineville city prosecutor and as the Pineville city attorney, and presided as a Pineville city judge for nearly 18 years before retiring to run his campaign for district attorney. He was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to the Judicial Continuing Education Committee, and has served as a member of the Red River Delta Law Enforcement Commission for 18 years. In addition, Phillip is a former England Authority Commissioner and president of the Rapides Parish Airport Authority.
While Phillip has served more of a public role in the community, Vicki says she could not be happier than she is in serving her family in a supportive role. Both are active members at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria. As the district attorney, Phillip wants to emphasize he has an open-door policy to the public. “My office is accessible. I am making a sign for my office that says, ‘This is your DA’s office.’” he notes, adding that he is working on some new protocols for his office.
The district attorney office has power under the law, he says. “Authority to prosecute and the power not to prosecute,” Terrell explains. His office has broadened the pretrial diversion program which permits first-time offenders, who have not been arrested for violent crimes, an opportunity to get into rehab for alcohol or illicit drugs. “Not everybody who comes into contact with the criminal justice system needs to go to prison,” he says, adding that probably 85 to 90 percent of first-time offenders are “not dangerous”. With the lack of jail space and with a shortage of judges to hear criminal cases, programs like the pretrial diversion program can make a big difference for nonviolent offenders or those arrested for a drug or alcohol-related issue, Terrell says. The criminal justice system hopes to help these people dealing with mental-health issues and substance abuse to stop the “revolving door” syndrome so common in the justice system, he says.
Serving as the district attorney, Terrell says, can be “very challenging, but so rewarding.” He has 74 employees and supervises 24 lawyers. Most days, Terrell puts in a full 12 hour day at work, while maintaining a part-time private law practice. When he is not speaking at a political function or teaching the “search and seizure” class for the Alexandria Police Academy, Terrell likes spending time with his family. Recently, his daughter, Shelby, was on the Pineville High School homecoming court. Phillip works out with weights, and his family enjoys grilling, entertaining friends and taking trips to Vermont or Destin, Florida. He and his son, Mason, have a hunting trip planned for South Dakota in a few weeks and have often taken exotic game hunting trips in Texas.
Working with other law enforcement agencies, Terrell says one of his major goals is to make the communities in the parish safer. With his experience with the judicial system and working with the police departments, Terrell thanks God for the opportunity to serve the people as their district attorney. “My home and my heart have always been here in Rapides Parish,” he says, “and I want to do everything I can in my power to make it an even better place to live.”