Lifelong Gulfport resident is honored to be new police chief

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After a unanimous vote, and a standing ovation, the appointment was ratified. Now, Leonard Papania is officially the Chief of Police for the city of Gulfport.

The City Council selected him from more than 60 applicants to be the next leader of the department, Wednesday afternoon.

"The last 10 months of the selection process has allowed me to discover the overwhelming support I and the Gulfport police department have from our citizens," sitting in front of city council members.

It's that support that humbles him.

"I have to say thank you to everybody in the community that continue to support me," said Chief Papania.

It's a position for which he feels fully qualified. He joined the Gulfport Police Department in 1991 and has been the Deputy Chief since 2009.

"Continue to hold us to a high bar, a high level expectation. Our citizens are entitled to professional policing," said Chief Papania.

The former police Chief Alan Weatherford retired from the Gulfport Police Department at the beginning of February. After that, Papania stood in as acting chief.

"We just operated business as usual and we will continue. There's a lot of great things you're going to see happen with that department," said Papania.

Soon to be Mayor of Gulfport Billy Hewes couldn't agree with that more.

"He brings a lot of integrity to the office already and he's getting a little bit of a head start. So I'm glad to have had a hand in his selection and we're going to work very well together. I'm encouraged by the leadership he's going to bring to our police force," said Hewes.

Chief Papania said what will make him great at the job are his roots in the community.

"I'm from Gulfport, Mississippi. I was born and raised here. I'm somebody who cares about this city, no different than any other citizen here. I just have an opportunity to serve," said Chief Papania.

An official swearing in ceremony will take place at Gulfport High School May 28th at 2 p.m.

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