Hiatt named new Petal police chief

By HASKEL BURNS,

A 20-year career with the Petal Police Department has led to the department’s highest position for Matthew Hiatt.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Petal Board of Aldermen, board members unanimously voted to appoint Hiatt, who currently serves as assistant chief, as the department’s new police chief effective Jan. 2. Hiatt will take over for Leonard Fuller, who served as chief for the last nine and a half years and will officially retire Jan. 1. 

“It’s a dream come true,” said Hiatt. “It’s something I’ve aspired to since probably two years (after joining the force). 

“It’s just a goal that I have strived for, and it’s a blessing to be able to serve this city.”

Fuller, who has served in the police force for about 30 years, said he decided it was time to pursue other options.

“I don’t have anything major planned,” he said. “I’m going to cut grass, get a part-time job doing something and stay busy.

“I love the outdoors, so I do a lot of mountain bike riding. We have some trails here in Petal, and I like to go out and help work on them, and I’ll do some fishing down there on the Coast. I grew up down in Gautier, and my parents are still there and doing well, so I spend a lot of time there.”

Before becoming chief in Petal, Fuller worked for 10 years in the Hattiesburg Police Department and served as a state officer in the Florida Park Service. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he graduated with a degree in Parks and Recreation.

“I’ve got two kids in college, so I’m just going to enjoy spending some time with the family,” Fuller said. “As a police officer, I’ve missed a lot of birthday parties, a lot of dance recitals and band competitions.

“I’ve got two girls, and I’ve missed a lot of things, so I plan on spending time with them and catching up on the things I missed.”

Hiatt said his time working with Fuller has been instrumental for preparing to step into his new role.

“It has absolutely made a huge difference in my life, and being able to take over the responsibilities of Chief Fuller,” he said. “Not only him, but the chiefs before him – I’ve had the fortune to work under a lot of great leaders.”

Mayor Hal Marx said Fuller has done an excellent job during his time as chief, and he looks forward to working with Hiatt.

“I can’t say enough about the leadership (Fuller) has shown our police department, between improvements and growth in the department,” he said. “We’re going to miss him - nobody can really replace him - but we’re fortunate to have somebody who has worked right alongside him as assistant chief.

“He started out as a rookie, and worked his way up to assistant chief, and I think he’s earned the chance to show what he can do as the chief of police, and I’m proud to call him my friend. I can’t think of anybody with more integrity and preparation to take over this department.”