Tim Brinkley is the new West Point Police Chief.
Brinkley was named to the post at the August 9 meeting of the West Point Board of Selectmen. The post had been vacant almost exactly two years; the selectmen fired previous chief Butch Bingham on August 11, 2009.
Brinkley will take office September 1.
Brinkley is a native of Tupelo and a 1979 graduate of Tupelo High School. He graduated from Mississippi Valley State University, and is also a graduate of the Ministerial Institute and College in West Point.
Brinkley started his career in law enforcement in the West Point Police Department in 1984. In 1986 he went to work for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, where he remained until now.
Brinkley spent eight of his 27 years in law enforcement as an administrator, serving as District I Law Enforcement Supervisor. He was later promoted to major and served as the North Region Administrator. He currently holds the rank of lieutenant colonel and serves as assistant chief of the law enforcement bureau.
He also serves as pastor of the Mount Hermom Missionary Baptist Church in West Point. He writes weekly pieces for the Daily Times Leader and has a radio broadcast on 98.9 WAJV-FM.
He is married to Glenda Willis Brinkley and they have two daughters, Victoria and Tia.
The vote to hire Brinkley was taken following a 50-minute executive session. Ward 1 Selectman Rod Bobo made the motion to hire Brinkley, and was seconded by Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon; Bobo and Cannon are the two selectmen on the Public Safety Committee, and were involved in selecting and interviewing candidates.
Brinkley was hired on a 4-1 vote, with Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman casting the lone no vote.
After the meeting Cannon explained that there had been about 10 applicants for the position.
“We had been looking at these applicants for about a month,” he said. “We had people apply from as far away as Maryland. There were quite a few qualified candidates.”
The candidates went to committee that included members of the community, Cannon said, and that group narrowed the field down to four candidates.
“Last week we came together and had the applicants come in for interviews,” Cannon said. “We considered the candidates’ experience, their previous jobs and how they felt about being chief in a small town. Brinkley was the most impressive of the candidates. He told us everything we wanted to hear.”
Cannon declined to name any of the other candidates, but did confirm that Lane was one of the four finalists.
In other executive session matters, the board voted to form a committee to interview candidates for the next water and light superintendent. Dwight Prisock is currently interim superintendent; he was named to the position following the firing of Shasta Plunkett on April 22, 2010.
In other business, the board denied a request to create a subdivision following a public hearing and heard a complaint from Dr. Johnnie Rasberry about the public appearances policy.
The public hearing was held following a request last month from Mike Garnett of Garnett Properties. Garnett wanted permission to subdivide a lot stretching from the corner of Brame Avenue and Griffin Street to Jones Street. Although the Planning Commission recommended that the board approve his request, Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins demanded that a public hearing be held to discuss the matter; Collins felt that residents surrounding the property needed to be informed about Garnett’s plans. Under questioning from Garnett, the selectmen admitted that other requests to build houses or create subdivisions did not have to go through the public hearing process, but nevertheless insisted that the hearing be held.
Tuesday night several citizens on Jones Avenue spoke, some more than once, urging the selectmen to decline Garnett’s request.
The first to speak was Mary Everson, a resident of Jones Street.
“To my understanding the property that you all are talking about, you want to have apartment houses built on this property or something?” she said. “I want to know what’s going in on this property.”
“The Planning Commission recommendation to us says for ‘single family dwellings or other approved uses,’ ” said Mayor Scott Ross.
“Well, we are elderly on that street, sir, and I’d certainly appreciate it if we wouldn’t find apartment houses built there because of the younger generation and how they react and stuff,” Everson said. “We don’t want to be in the middle of all that. We don’t want the neighborhood occupied by anyone and everybody.”
Jones Street resident Linda Johnson also opposed the subdivision.
“I’ve lived in that area most all my life,” she said. “I think it’s a real nice neighborhood. We haven’t had any problems with anybody. We have the police come through there two or three times a day looking for nothing. It’s a real nice neighborhood and we don’t want nothing built in this area.”
“Is the objection to the fact that it might be apartments, or is the objection to houses?” Ross asked.
“Both,” Johnson responded, drawing some laughter from the audience. “We have a beautiful neighborhood.”
Garnett attempted to address the residents’ fears.
“First and foremost I understand everybody’s concerns,” Garnett said. “I have drastically improved the home that’s already on the property. All of my property is in exceptionally good shape. Nobody has to get on me to mow the grass or anything. What I’m asking for is to divide the lot up. Any kind of property built on this has to go through re-approval with the Planning Commission. At this point I want to make it understood all I did was go by the guidelines in the development code that this board approved. I did everything it said. No questions. As I said before, whether it’s a single family house or anything each individual property has to be approved before it’s built. I can see some concern, but you’ve got a lot of shabby buildings in the area also.
“What I don’t understand is that we have a black contractor building a subdivision right now,” Garnett, who is European-American, added. “We have houses going up everywhere. What’s the problem? I’m sure he had to meet the same codes I did, and he didn’t have to have a public hearing. I would like an answer to that.”
“If I am understanding their concerns, their concerns are apartments being built or both apartments or houses,” Cannon said.
“I think they said both,” Ross said.
Everson came to the microphone again.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that these houses would be beautiful and appealing to the neighborhood,” Everson said. “The thing is who is getting in these houses? If it’s young people…y’all know what I’m talking about. I don’t want no drug dealers in my neighborhood. We’re talking about the peoples that are moving in. We are mostly elderly people. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I want to be able to work in my flowers and not be afraid. I don’t want to be afraid to poke my head out because I’m afraid of young people.”
“I think it should be understood that I own property in that neighborhood,” Garnett said. “I screen everybody very carefully. I can give you a list of people that I have sent away that didn’t do right. It would be wonderful to build buildings and have elderly people live in them. I think all the city is doing when they’re trying to beautify West Point is tearing down houses. What looks bad? A house that looks like it needs tearing down, or an empty lot? Don’t you think it’s time to show growth in this community? This is the only way to do it. With the bank financing and stuff, it’s real hard to get the money to build a home. A large percentage of the people in this town are renters for whatever reason.”
Everson spoke a third time.
“I appreciate that, sir, but we have people that have different life standards and can spend a lot of money and get this house,” she said. “Like if they were selling drugs.”
The board voted 4-1 to deny Garnett’s request on a motion from Collins and a second from Cannon. Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer cast the dissenting vote.
Rasberry asked the board to rescind their public appearance policy.
Prior to this board taking office, any member of the public who wished to do so was allowed to address the board. Soon after taking office the current board changed the policy, requiring that would-be speakers go through an application process and be formally placed on the agenda.
Rasberry argued that this policy should be done away with.
“I would like to stress the importance of citizens being able to speak to their elected representatives,” Rasberry said. “I’m concerned by the public appearance procedure. I would like for the board to seriously consider discontinuing the process by which a person has to apply to speak to the people who represent them. I think that that’s completely out of order in a democracy. If you had 10 people that came and spoke to you for two minutes, it would take you no more than 20 minutes to hear them. If you notice in the last few board meetings you only have one or two people who want to speak to you. I think things are happening in the community where people would like to come and speak to you but the procedure makes it impossible.”
The board took no action.