After retiring from the Meridian Police Department in 2019, Deborah Naylor-Young is ready to rejoin the force.
“I’m so excited and honored,” said Naylor-Young, who was appointed the city’s new police chief in a 5-0 vote by the city council Aug. 17. “It’s a pleasure to be able to come back and work with a lot of people that I worked with before...they have great hearts and they have a great love for this community.”
The graduate of Meridian High and Meridian Community College worked 24 years in the police department, retiring as a lieutenant. She succeeds Chris Read, who wasn’t re-appointed to the position when he was brought to the council in July.
Naylor-Young, the MPD’s first female chief, began her career with the department in 1995 as a clerk in the courts and records division. She became an officer after graduating from the police academy in 1998.
She later worked as a patrol officer and taught the D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in The Meridian Public School District and at St. Patrick Catholic School. She also was an investigator focusing on juvenile crime for 12 years before becoming lieutenant in 2016.
Naylor-Young said she came of retirement after being encouraged by others to return to law enforcement.
“I saw that there was a need,” she said. “I was asked by several people about coming back even before the chief of police position was available.”
Naylor-Young’s appointment comes after a string of recent violence in the city. Three people – including a 5-year-old boy – died in three unrelated shootings on Aug. 7.
Her immediate plan to stem the violence is to make officers more visible in the community, she said.
“Once people start see police officers out there.. talking with people in the community ...I think it will help curb some of it,” she said.
Long term, she plans to focus on recruitment and retention, and aims to improve morale in the department.
“These officers need to have someone who they can look up to,” she said. “We are looking for good people with integrity to do this, who have a love people and love for this community,” she said.
Naylor-Young also hopes her appointment will inspire young women.
“I think it’s very important to have mentors and role models,” she said. “I am excited to be one.”
The council also approved Tim Miller as a chief administrative officer in a 3-2 vote. Council members Joseph Norwood and Dwayne Davis voted no. Miller replaces Eddie Kelly, who retired in the spring.
Craig Hitt was named community development director in a 3-2 vote. Davis and Norwood voted no. Hitt, a former Lauderdale County supervisor, is the current executive director of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority.
In 5-0 vote, Jason Collier was named fire chief and Thomas Adams was named parks and recreation director.