Petal aldermen accept police chief’s retirement

By HASKEL BURNS,
After a 30-year career in the police force, Petal Police Department Chief Leonard Fuller is officially starting a new chapter - one that involves a little less work and a lot more recreational and family time.
 
The Petal Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday evening to accept the resignation/retirement of Fuller, who has served as the department’s chief for the past nine and a half years. Fuller will be succeeded by current Assistant Chief Matthew Hiatt, who will officially take over as chief on Jan. 1.
 
“It’s been my honor and privilege to serve the city of Petal,” Fuller said at the board meeting. “I thank the board of aldermen - each and every one of you - and I thank the mayor for standing up and helping us in every way that we’ve asked for.
“It’s just been great working for you, and I appreciate it. There’s been no major controversy, and I really appreciate your support and helping us out in any way you can. I’m going to miss y’all.”
 
Along with the acceptance of Fuller’s retirement, board members also voted to authorize Fuller to purchase his duty weapon from the city for a cost of $1, as allowed by state law.
 
“Ever since (I met Fuller), he’s always been professional and a great representative of our police department,” Mayor Hal Marx said. “I was proud to nominate him three times … and he’ll be sorely missed.
 
“I’ve come to think of him as a friend; we’ve had a lot of lunches together, a lot of conversations together. And even though I know we’ve got a great bunch of guys who are going to keep doing the good work, he has done a great job at the helm for the last nine and a half years, and we just him the best in his retirement. I hope he enjoys it.”
 
Fuller said he decided it was time to pursue other options.
 
“I don’t have anything major planned,” he said in a previous story. “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 down 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,” he 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’ve missed.”
 
Hiatt said he’s learned a lot from Fuller during their time working together, and is looking forward to taking over the department.
 
“It’s a dream come true,” Hiatt said. “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.”
 
In other action Tuesday, aldermen also voted to adopt an order appointing Zach Vaughn as Municipal Court Judge pro tem at an annual salary of $6,000, as well as to appoint David Myers as City Prosecutor at an annual salary of $11,000.