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Meridian first in Mississippi with homeland security agency

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Sept. 18, 2003
Meridian will be the first Mississippi city to have a Department of Homeland Security and one of the first to hire a full-time homeland security director, the state emergency management director said Wednesday.
Robert Latham, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, also serves as the state's director of homeland security. He said other cities could follow Meridian's lead.
On Tuesday, Meridian city officials unveiled preliminary plans for a new homeland security department that will be headquartered at the city's emergency training center on Sand Flat Road.
Meridian Fire Chief H.C. "Bunky" Partridge will retire Oct. 31 as fire chief. The next day, Partridge will take over as director of homeland security and move into his office at the training center.
After he retires, Partridge will draw a pension based on his $60,000-a-year fire chief job and 29 years of city service. He also will earn $60,000 a year in his new job; two thirds of his pay will be funded by a $350,000 federal grant and the rest by the city.
Mayor John Robert Smith said Partridge also will be considered "equal status" to the city's other six department heads.
Even though Meridian is not one of the state's largest municipalities, it will be the first to have its own Department of Homeland Security and one of the first to have a full-time paid director.
Latham said most cities have named their top local emergency management workers to also serve as the director of homeland security in their respective communities for no additional pay.
Lauderdale County Emergency Management Director Clarence Butler currently serves as the county's director of homeland security.