Grisham will retire June 30 after 32 years in the post.
“I’ve never had a desire to do anything else,” said the New Albany native, who set his sights on law enforcement in high school and studied criminal justice at the University of Mississippi. He began at the Union County Sheriff’s Department before winning his first police chief election in 1981.
Even in a town sometimes described as Mayberry, 40 years in law enforcement carries the cost of a few bad memories – the 2011 killing of teacher Amanda Price, for instance, and the 2005 attacks that left businessman Chico Foote and two other people dead.
“Being fortunate enough to work with a lot of good aldermen, a lot of good mayors ... a lot of good officers, too,” Grisham said. “The satisfying part of law enforcement is being able to help people when they’re in distress or in a time of need.”
Grisham has seen plenty of changes, but one stands above all others.
“When I started, we didn’t know what a computer was,” he said. “Now we have computers in our vehicles. ... Sometimes I hate ’em, but we can’t do without them.”
Grisham said he is gratified with his career.
“The only goal I’ve ever had was to leave this place in better shape than I found it,” he said.
The Depression-era building that houses his department embodies his only regret.
“The only thing I really wanted to do that I haven’t been able to do is to get a new department headquarters,” he said.
Grisham said he has no firm plans for his retirement other than to hunt, fish and golf. Oh – and to spend more time with his wife, Charlotte, their three adult daughters and four grandchildren.
Two of Grisham’s officers have qualified for this spring’s election to succeed him as chief.
“I felt this was my time to run and try to make the best police department we can have,” said Lt. Mark Golding, an 18-year veteran of the force and Union County’s coroner.
“New Albany is growing, and I want to take us in some new directions – to keep working on the grants, getting more up-to-date technology and getting more face time with the citizens,” said Chris Robertson, a 13-year NAPD veteran and a criminal justice graduate from Ole Miss.
Both candidates had high praise for their mentor, and Grisham returned the compliments.
“I’d be happy to see either one in the job,” he said. “Both are very well-qualified.”