OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A man who worked his way up from dog catcher to the chief of police is retiring from the Ocean Springs Police Department after three decades. Chief Lionel Cothern packed up belongings and said goodbye to the officers and staff he considers like family.
Cothern still has the hat he received as a 21 year old when he joined Ocean Springs department as a reserve officer. His law enforcement career took off from there.
"My first full time job with the city of Ocean Springs was the animal control officer. That was January of '86," said Cothern. "April of '86 I got promoted to police officer and graduated the academy. I progressed from there to sergeant, lieutenant, shift captain, administrative captain to the chief of police."
On Friday, Cothern packed up 30 years worth of memories in law enforcement with all of those years spent with Ocean Springs. He said while technology has changed dramatically, other aspects of police work like sacrifice and dedication have not. Cothern said he tries to pass on lessons he's learned to younger officers.
"Things are not going to always go your way, but it's a job. Don't take it personally," Cothern said. "Try to leave it here when you go home because you can bring a lot of stress home from this job all the way from a patrol officer on up. Leave the job at the door when you go home. Don't fret about it."
Cothern said he'll miss working closely with the nearly 60 officers and staff every day and he's grateful the people of Ocean Springs for their trust in him.
"Just pride that they have allowed me to serve them for 30 years. It's a great community and we've always had the public's support. I'm just glad I was able to do the best I can to continue that," said Cothern.
Now the search must begin for who will be Ocean Springs' new police chief. On Tuesday, the board of aldermen is slated to vote on appointing an interim police chief. Cothern told WLOX he recommended Deputy Chief Mark Dunston be named interim.
As far as a new permanent chief, Ocean Spring mayor Connie Moran explained that decision must be made by the board of aldermen.
Mayor Connie Moran said, "The board is responsible for hiring and firing. It has been our unwritten policy to promote from within. That is what Lionel Cothern asked the board to consider in his letter of resignation indicating he would be retiring and we have some excellent candidates within our own department. So we will advertise for the position within the department first and then the board can decide if they also want to invite people from outside the department.
Mayor Moran thanked Lionel Cothern for his years of service to the city.