By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – After interviewing three finalists for the city’s top law enforcement job, Oxford aldermen voted unanimously Friday to select their current assistant chief.
Joey East, 42, is an 18-year veteran of the city’s police force who also spent four years as an investigator with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. A lifelong Oxonian and the son of longtime Lafayette County Sheriff F.D. “Buddy” East, he will assume the office Feb. 1, after current Chief Mike Martin retires.
Alderman Janice Antonow said she was impressed by East’s attendance at the FBI Academy, a challenge unusual for local law enforcement officers to undertake.
“It also included study in things that aren’t related strictly to police work, such as leadership development,” she said. “In his interview, he demonstrated that leadership and knowledge. He was well-prepared.”
Antonow said another element in East’s favor was a host of recommendations from people in the Oxford community.
Two other veteran lawmen – Lafayette County Sheriff’s Investigator Scott Mills and Olive Branch Assistant Police Chief Mark Kimbrell – were also interviewed as finalists for the position.
“The other applicants were also very good, very qualified for the job,” Antonow said. “It was not a really easy decision. We spent a lot of time in discussion.”
East said his priorities will include building on the department’s current efforts to build strong community connections and working more closely with the University of Mississippi, whose student body almost equals Oxford’s population.
“I want to make a stronger bridge with the university students, a better partnership,” he said. “We need to help them understand why we have to do some of the things we do.”
Mike Martin heartily agreed with the board’s choice of East.
“The old boy did a fine job as assistant chief, and I think he’ll do equally well as chief,” he said. “He’s very well known in the community, he’s respected by the officers in the department, and the mayor and board are comfortable with him. It’s a good fit for the department and the city.”
Oxford’s mayor was laudatory toward both police leaders.
“As mayor, I congratulate Chief East and look forward to working with him. He has large shoes to fill,” George “Pat” Patterson said.
“Mike Martin has served this town with quiet professionalism and integrity,” he added. “On behalf of the citizens of Oxford, we wish him the best after 38 years of service.”