"My aspiration was to be an artist," Ocean Springs Police Chief Kerry Belk said.
And that is easy to see when you walk into Chief Belk's office. The walls are filled with his own masterpieces, along with awards for his service and commitment to fighting crime in Ocean Springs.
For 22 years, Chief Belk has devoted his time and talents to keeping the city safe. Belk is officially retiring from his post in March.
Belk began his career as a patrolman in the 1980s, and soon worked his way to the top of the chain of command.
"I made sergeant. I worked in the investigative division, and I worked my way up to shift captain patrol, than I worked my way to Chief of CID," Belk said.
"The opening for Police Chief came up, I was able to get the job and I have been the Chief of Police for over six years now."
During those years, Belk has helped bring in thousands of dollars in federal and state grants to the department. He also found money within the city's budget to improve police equipment, purchase police cars, and hire more qualified officers.
"We had some officers who got as much as a $5,000 raise, and that is the type of thing you know from your experiences as a patrol officer what that kind of increase means to that officer and their families."
Perhaps what stands out the most, however, are Belk's actions during Katrina. Despite losing his own home, Belk and his officers worked around the clock to get the city back on track.
"We made phone calls, we took advantage of the officers from out of state, when people had something to offer we did not turn them away."
Now, after 22 years of protecting and serving, Belk says it time call it quits.
"I had someone tell me, 'You will know when it is time to go. It is just a feeling you get.'"
As for his life after law enforcement?
"My objective is peace and quite and to spend more time with family and get back into my art."
Belk says he would like to see a public safety facility built in Ocean Springs to house the Police Department, the Municipal Court, and the Fire Department.
Belk will be replaced by Administrative Captain Lionel Cothern who will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found. That move is pending approval from the Board of Alderman.
By: Patrice Clark