By Crystal Burns
Bill Cusson remembers the moment he knew his family had made the right choice.
Cusson, his wife Joann, and their sons Wyatt and Will followed the couple’s daughter Tiffany Welch and her family to Trenton from Arizona about two years ago. Cusson said the scene at their new home, the former Crim house in the historic district of South College Street, was chaotic. There were movers and electricians coming in and out of the home when Cusson answered a knock on the door.
Jason Bowen, pastor of First Baptist Church, and his young daughter introduced themselves and asked if they could help.
“I told my wife we moved to the right place,” Cusson said. “The moment that I got here, I was welcomed.”
With a 4-2 vote, the Trenton Board of Aldermen selected Cusson as Chief of Police after interviewing three candidates March 20. Cusson succeeds Will Sanders, who retired with 41 years of service to the Trenton Police Dept. and 18 years as chief, in January.
“I’m just so excited to step into this role,” Cusson said.
Aldermen Dona Leadbetter, Joe Hammonds, Billy Wade, and Rickey Graves cast votes for Cusson. Aldermen Bubba Abbott and Frank Gibson voted for Lt. Jimmy Wilson. The board also interviewed Lt. Dusty Vickers.
Cusson was serving as a patrolman, a post he has held for 18 months. Wilson and Vickers have both been with the Trenton department for nearly 20 years.
“I knew that we had three very good candidates,” Cusson said.
Cusson is a 23-year law enforcement veteran, having spent most of his career in Arizona. He was an interim police chief in Goodyear, Ari. for about a year.
How they voted
While the board was not unanimous in its choice for chief, council members did agree that the city was fortunate to have three in-house candidates qualify for the job.
“I think any one of the three would have made us an excellent police chief,” Gibson said. “I don’t think I could’ve gone wrong with any of the three.”
In the end, Gibson said it came down to rank and experience. He chose Wilson because of his lieutenant status and his 18 years with Trenton.
Abbott expressed similar thoughts, saying the difference was Wilson’s 18 years compared to Cusson’s 18 months in Trenton
“In my opinion, Jimmy [Wilson] was the best candidate for the job,” Abbott said. “He’s been working in that department for 18 years; he knows every square inch of that department.”
Ledbetter said Cusson’s experience in Arizona stood out to her.
“I wanted a candidate with experience with growth and what growth means to a community,” she said.
Hammonds also said he thinks Cusson can help prepare the Trenton Police Dept. and the city for future growth local leaders believe Tyson Foods’ new chicken complex in Humboldt could mean for the surrounding area.
“We’re on the cusp of things starting to blossom,” Hammonds said. “We need to be prepared. He can help us anticipate and be prepared for things that might be coming down the road.”
Cusson’s experience also caught Graves’ eye.
“I was real impressed with Bill,” Graves said. “I just felt like he was the most experienced of all of them and he would bring fresh ideas to the department. I’ve got a lot of confidence we’re going to see a lot of great things out of him.”
Wade said Cusson is what the city needs at this time.
“He’s going to reach out,” Wade said. “He communicates. You have to talk to people. You have to be understanding.”
Mayor Ricky Jackson, who only votes in the event of a tie, said the board had a difficult choice.
“It was a tough decision,” Jackson said. “Any of the three would’ve been fine with me. [Bill Cusson] is going to bring some new leadership. He’s going to be fine. This police department is going to be fine.”
Jackson was pleased to have three in-house candidates qualify for the job.
“It shows that we’re doing something right in this police department,” he said. “I’m very excited about where we might go from here.”
The Trenton Police Dept. has 23 employees and an operating budget of about $900,000.