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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Former Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton is coming to Columbus. The City Council unanimously hired him today to be assistant chief over the criminal investigations division.

Carleton starts work Nov. 1; he’ll make $65,000 a year.

WCBI first reported his likely hiring Tuesday.

Carleton, who stepped down Monday night after almost four years as chief in Tupelo, is looking forward to his new role.

“The assistant chief that I took is over the CID and narcotics so I look forward to getting with those guys and helping any way I can and hopefully get that running,” said Carleton, who was a top Lee County Sheriff’s administrator before taking the Tupelo job.

He left that position after learning new Mayor Jason Shelton did plan to keep him in the new administration. Columbus Chief Selvain McQueen started talking to Carleton several weeks ago and he and Mayor Robert Smith had formal discussions with Carleton three weeks ago. He met other city leaders Tuesday.

McQueen established the position and had it approved by the City Council last year but it’s been vacant until now.

The Nov. 1 start will give Carleton and his family a chance to make the transition.

“The board and the mayor have been great about letting me commute until we can get our house sold and move down here so we look forward to this becoming our home. We have three children, so they’ll be moving with us.”

McQueen welcomes the addition.

“We interviewed quite a few people and felt that Tony would be the best fit and we thank the former city he came from for donating him to us. We’ll take him with open arms,” McQueen said.

Mayor Smith said, “Tupelo’s loss in Columbus’ gain.”

The City Council also hired a Louisiana officer to be a captain in the CID unit. But McQueen won’t disclose his name until he notifies his current employer.

“The council voted unanimously to hire a captain as the commander of investigations, an individual with 37 years of experience, well versed in law enforcement, so he will be another addition to the Columbus police department,” Smith said.

Carleton is ready for his new role.

“It wasn’t my plan to move. Tupelo’s my home, I was born there. But we’re excited. It’s a door that’s open that God put before us and my family and we’re excited about moving down here,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carleton’s hiring has sparked widespread speculation that McQueen plans to retire or move on to another job.

He says it’s about putting together the best team possible, not hanging up his shield.

“I don’t have any plans to go anywhere or retire. Now if a job comes in the door paying twice what I make now, I might be gone. But for now, I’m good. Any successful leader, if you review history, has surrounded themselves with qualified personnel. I mean you go out, you recruit and you get the very best people you can find,” McQueen said.

McQueen has been with the department for 25 years and has been interim and permanent chief since July 2011.

Carleton’s hiring will be contingent on a change to the city’s civil service rules. Last year, when the city was contemplating making McQueen chief, the Civil Service Commission gave the new chief the authority to hire an assistant chief within six months if he deemed the position necessary. That six months has expired. The Civil Service Commission will hold a public hearing on Oct. 10 to amend the rule by removing the six-month provision.

Comment on this Story

  • Karen

    I think this is a good move!! Tony Carleton is a good man and knows his stuff. Columbus Police Department truely need the help! Too bad he’s not coming in as the Chief.

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