By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – When Tony Carleton walked into his new office Monday morning, the first thing he noticed was that the paint on the white walls still wasn’t dry.
The empty room in the Tupelo Police Department Central Headquarters didn’t look like a chief’s office; in fact, it didn’t look quite big enough to be anyone’s office.
But as he scanned the room with a smile on his face, the department’s newest head man saw potential.
“A little paint, a desk and a few more things and this office is going to be fine,” said Carleton.
Monday was Carleton’s first day as Tupelo’s new chief, having been appointed by Mayor Jack Reed Jr. to replace the retiring Harold Chaffin. For the past seven years, Carleton had served as Lee County Jail administrator.
The son of a retired Tupelo officer and a former Tupelo policeman himself, Carleton said his new position Monday meant that his career had come full circle.
“I can remember when my dad worked here in 1971 coming to this building and meeting the police chief and officers,” said Carleton, who met with the press Monday morning. “I wanted to be a police officer from that day on. To be standing here in this building, in my office as the chief is a dream comes true. I’m ready to work.”
Even on the first day, Carleton’s administration looked a lot different from his predecessor’s.
Chaffin’s office was in the records building on Broadway Street, where the detectives division also is located. But Carleton’s office is at the Central Headquarters on Front Street. Central is the base for most of the officers, including most of the command staff.
“I want to be right here with the officers when they come in this building,” Carleton said. “I want them to be able to walk past my door every day and see me every day. They need to know that I’m here for them and they can come by my office anytime they need too.”
His top commanders, Majors Jackie Clayton and Anthony Hill, served as Carleton’s supervisors when he was first with the department. Now that they are his subordinates, both Hill and Clayton said they are more than ready to go to work for their new chief.
“I think that in life we are subject to change and this is a good change,” said Clayton, a 30-year-veteran of the department. “The command staff supports the new chief fully.”
Even though it was his first day, Carleton said it wasn’t too early to think about his goals for the 127-person department.