TUPELO • Police Chief Bart Aguirre is not yet certain how he’ll proceed in response to an imminent vacancy at his department’s number two leadership post.
Deputy Chief Allan Gilbert will retire from the Tupelo Police Department at the end of December and depart for a job in Arkansas.
Aguirre said he awaits further guidance from Mayor Jason Shelton before he is able to offer much detail about the process to reconfigure the department’s upper reaches.
“I am waiting to sit down with the mayor, and talk with him about it first,” Aguirre said. “It’s kind of still left open, and I really can’t comment on it till I have a good conversation with the mayor first.”
Don Lewis, the city of Tupelo’s chief operations officer, said much the same, and plans to confer with key officials about the deputy chief vacancy.
“We want to get input about what the chief wants to do and what the mayor wants,” Lewis said.
Shelton named Aguirre chief of police early in his first term in 2013, and Aguirre in turn named Gilbert deputy chief shortly thereafter so Aguirre has never served any significant length of time as chief without Gilbert right below him within the leadership ranks.
Both men were longtime members of the department.
Looking to a future without Gilbert, Aguirre floated the possibility that City Hall may want to revise the leadership structure of the police department or impose a delay in filling the job.
“We may not fill it right away,” Aguirre said. “We may wait and see.”
However, Lewis believes the job will stay in place.
“I think it’s needed, whether it’s rearranged or you balance out the work load between three people,” Lewis said.
If a search to replace Gilbert moves forward, Aguirre said he might consider promoting one of TPD’s two majors, the highest rank in the department below the deputy chief.
“I’ve got two majors that would be good, both of them would be good candidates to fill that position,” Aguirre said. “Both of them are very qualified.”
The two majors currently within the department are Anthony Hill and Jackie Clayton, also longtime members of the Tupelo police force.
Hill is the highest ranking black member of TPD.