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O’Quinn chosen new police chief

WESSON – Aldermen selected the town’s new police chief Tuesdaynight in a lengthy board meeting, ending a very public search toreplace retired chief Steve Carlisle.

Capt. Chad O’Quinn was promoted to chief over his contender,officer Daniel Hutchinson, after aldermen spent well more than onehour in executive session interviewing both candidates and arrivingat the decision.

Alderwoman Lura Greer said the interview process was thoroughand fair, as each candidate spent an equal amount of timeundergoing the same interview from town leaders.

“We asked each the same questions, and we just decided that Chadshould be the one,” she said. “He’s a hometown boy – he grew uphere – and we felt he was the best man for the job.”

Mayor Alton Shaw said both O’Quinn and Hutchinson were strongcandidates for the job.

“Everybody has pluses and minuses – we just weighed all ofeach,” he said. “Both have excellent ideas for things to be done inthe town, ways to move forward. After several factors werediscussed, it was decided that officer O’Quinn be promoted to chiefof police.”

Shaw said Wesson has high expectations for O’Quinn, adding thenew chief has “very big shoes to fill.” Town leaders will expectO’Quinn to improve relationships between the department and schoolsand businesses, as well as to develop the department toward thefuture.

“As I’ve said before, this is probably the most importantposition in the Town of Wesson,” Shaw said. “The chief dealsdirectly with the people’s safety and well being. O’Quinn is nowthe person who will oversee all of that.”

O’Quinn, who began his stint as chief Wednesday at 8 a.m., saidhe would begin his new duties with an officers’ briefing toestablish his expectations for the department.

“There’s just going to be some minor adjustments,” he said.”We’re going to make sure we have uniformity in our appearance andact in a professional manner in any situation.”

O’Quinn said his main priority as chief will be increasedpatrolling, especially an increased presence at local schools.

“I haven’t been advised that fuel prices will be an issue,” hesaid. “We will keep up a heavy patrol – it can be a deterrent tocrime. We have a quiet community in Wesson, but crime is subject tohit anywhere, any time. We’ve got the tools in place to meet thoseneeds as they arise.”

O’Quinn made his first adjustment immediately after the meetingadjourned in a one-on-one conversation with former Wessoninvestigator Jim Hampton. Hampton had waged a six-month effort ofletter-writing while urging town leaders to apply great scrutiny inselecting the chief of police.

A dispute between O’Quinn and Hampton developed after Hamptonsuggested that tax money collected from the town’s recentannexation be used to upgrade the police department. However, thedispute appeared to be subsiding after Tuesday’s decision.

“I told Jim that this would be a new administration – he is morethan welcome to come by and discuss any ideas he has for thedepartment,” O’Quinn said of his brief meeting with Hampton. “Hetold me he just loved law enforcement and wanted what’s best forthe town, and so do I.”

Hampton said he appreciates O’Quinn’s efforts to mend fencesbetween the two men, saying O’Quinn’s talk with him was verymagnanimous.

“He knows my efforts were in the best interest of thedepartment, and that I had separated any personal fronts from theneed for professional recommendations to be made to the town,”Hampton said. “I will certainly do what I can to support hisefforts to improve the town.”