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franklin county times

Longtime Quitman employee retiring after 39-year career

By Staff
STAYING HOME After more than 39 years of service to the town of Quitman, Billy Kemp has retired. He will be honored with a special reception today. Photo by Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
July 1, 2001
QUITMAN Things are going to be a little different around town hall with the retirement of longtime employee Billy Kemp, ending his tenure of more than 39 years of service to the city.
Reception today
Kemp will be honored today during a reception at the Quitman Depot. It will follow the swearing in ceremony of the mayor and board of aldermen, which is set to begin at 2 p.m.
Born and raised in Clarke County near Quitman, Kemp went to work in the construction business after he finished his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy in 1956. He traveled to jobs across the southeast United States, and was away from home a great deal. That's why he applied to go to work for the city when they needed a police chief.
When he started, the Quitman Police Department was made up of him and another man, James Parker. The men were on call 24/7, with Kemp working the day shift and Parker working the night shift.
Talk to people
He said that knowing how to talk to people was an important part of his job.
Kemp said traffic offenses and burglaries occupied much of his time, though there were cases of more serious crimes such as murders and robberies. After a few years, the city hired another policeman so Kemp and Parker could have an occasional day off.
One case he remembered came about when he caught two men trying to drill their way through a sidewall and into a local jewelry store.
Kemp took off his badge in 1988 and went to head the streets department. Through planning and hard work, he sought to maintain the quality streets while making improvements. He also was responsible for the garbage and trash pickup, and later started a recycling program in Quitman that has been recognized as the best in Mississippi.
Ups and downs
Staying with one employer for nearly 40 years is not the norm today, but Kemp said he never considered running for sheriff or changing jobs.
He said one of his proudest moments came when his son, Todd, was elected sheriff of Clarke County.
Todd Kemp said he never thought he would see his daddy retire, but said he learned a lot by watching him in action.
Kemp served under seven different mayors, and had nothing but kind words to say about all of them.
Kemp and his wife of 45 years, Barbara, have three grown sons, Todd, Donald and Ronnie. They plan to spend more time with their sons, their wives and the grandchildren. "We've always been a close family," Kemp said.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.