Retiring Gulfport Police Chief Steve Barnes Reflects On Long Career

The location and the equipment has changed, but for Police Chief Steve Barnes, it all started in the Gulfport Police Dispatch Center.

"I was hired on as a communications officer and then from there I applied for patrol," says Barnes. "And I went into patrol, and narcotics, investigations, and worked through the ranks."

Barnes worked his way up to the city's top law enforcement job. Friday, that long and distinguished career came to an end.

"I have been blessed with the opportunity to begin as a dispatcher and ultimately retire as Chief of this department."

A 25 year run and rise through the ranks that could have easily ended before it began.

"When I was actually going through the application process, I didn't tell my mother because that was the last thing she wanted me to do," says Barnes. "Not that she didn't support it, she just didn't want me to place myself in harm's way."

Barnes says leaving behind the people and the profession he's been with his entire adult life isn't easy.

"I leave with mixed feelings. I look forward to new opportunities, but I'm certainly going to miss the routine I've been in for the last 25 years and I'm certainly going to miss the individuals."

That's a sentiment shared by his staff.

"We will miss him as Chief of Police, but we will miss his friendship," says grant writer Sarah Lizana. "Because he's been a friend much longer than he's been Chief of Police."

But Barnes feels the time is right for a new leader. One he hopes comes from the same place he did.

"I think it's important we stay in house and promote from within."

And he has only one piece of advice for the next chief.

"A good leader is not one that does the job better than anyone else. A good leader is someone who surrounds himself with folks who can do the job better than him. And that is what I've done here. There's an awesome group of individuals that work for this department. My success is because of the job they do."

Barnes will turn in his equipment and badge on Monday. The 44-year-old says he hasn't decided what career opportunities he might pursue next.