NETTLETON • The Nettleton police chief will continue to be elected for the foreseeable future.
During a special called meeting Thursday night, the Board of Aldermen reaffirmed that the position would be elected, quashing any talk of making it an appointed position.
Last month, the Nettleton Board of Aldermen floated the idea to switch back to an appointed police chief in 2021 and scheduled a public hearing for 5 p.m. Friday at city hall. Overwhelmingly negative comments from the public forced the board to scrap the idea.
Alderman Iry Gladney said he only had five people from his ward call. Four wanted it to remain elected. The other didn’t care either way. Calls he got from other wards were strongly against appointed.
Alderman Daniel Lee said he talked to at least three dozen of his ward 4 constituents.
“Mine were overwhelmingly for keeping it elected, Lee said. “It was probably 80 percent.”
Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Finch said his folks were just the opposite, with three-quarters wanting it to be appointed.
“Mine started out with most of them pro appointed,” said Ward 1 Alderman Mike Fulco. “Then as time went on, I had some call back and switch to elected.”
At-large Alderman Thomas Adams made a motion to “cancel the public hearing and reaffirm that the police chief position is elected, not appointed.” Lee seconded the motion, which passed 4-1.
“I think in the long-term interests of the city, it’s best to go the other way (appointed),” Finch said in opposition. “I have nothing against (current chief) Gary Monaghan.”
Since 1978, Nettleton has had 11 different police chiefs. During that 40-year period, eight of the chiefs were elected. Between January 2008 and June 2013, three appointed chiefs – Ricky Payne, Ronnie Burrough and Jackie Wimberly – oversaw the police department.
Of the 275 municipalities in Mississippi with police departments, only 11 have elected chiefs. Most of those are clustered in northeast Mississippi. Forest and Brookhaven are the other two. For the most part, the elected chiefs are from smaller cities.
A century ago, voters were tasked to elect most city officials, including city clerks, police chiefs, personnel directors and street commissioners (public works directors). As towns grew, most opted to make department heads appointed positions.
Elected and appointed position both have their good and bad points.
Elected chiefs have to live inside the city limits, so they are from the town and know the people. The election process also assures them job security for four years. By appointing a chief, the city can look outside the city limits to find the best person for the job. But job security is tentative, since an appointed chief serves at the whim of the board and can easily be removed.