RUSK – Stephen Hughes, the long-time head of Rusk Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division, stepped into his new role Tuesday as the city's interim police chief.
Nathan Acker will temporarily take the duties of the CID Department until a new chief is hired this spring.
“It was kind of the plan – we knew it was coming, but we didn't know it was coming this quick,” Hughes said. “I'm not changing anything. Joe left me a very solid foundation, and I'm just going to keep going with what he began.”
On Jan. 8, Joe Williams – who had served as Rusk's chief of police since 2017 – was named as Jacksonville's new police chief.
Hughes, who has led Rusk's CID since 2009, was commissioned as a peace officer in 1998 and began working for the City of Rusk in March 2000.
“I started on patrol; moved up to sergeant, then lieutenant; I've been evidence custodian, chief bottle washer, maid, vacuum cleaner, personnel ...” he laughed.
Hughes oversees a department that has 12 sworn officers and one civilian on staff. At this time, he said, his job is to keep things steady until a permanent chief is hired.
“This is not an emergency situation or anything like that; I've been told they'll (city leaders) try to have someone in here by mid-May,” he said. “The only thing I need to make a decision on quickly is our next offering to the Citizens' Police Academy.”
The popular course is slated to begin in March, “and I've got to make the decision of if we're going do it or if we are going to cancel that one, to just let everybody settle in and see if the new chief wants to pick it back up in September,” he said.
The police academy program has been offered twice, drawing from 22 to 24 participants each time, he said.
“And we've had a lot of interest in it – the thing about the community is that they know what we do, but when someone gets into a program like that, you go through everything, and I think there's a little bit more realization of it,” Hughes said, “especially when we cover active shootings. That's when a bunch of people get their eyes open.”
Rusk City Manager Jim Dunaway said Hughes, who holds the rank of Sergeant, “has worked closely with Chief Williams and I feel confident that his interim appointment will serve the city well.”
Dunaway said applications will be taken until March 15 – to date, his office has received 11 applications – “and hopefully we will be able to bring a full-time chief on board by the middle of April.”
Meanwhile, Hughes said he appreciates the opportunity.
“I'm not changing anything,” he reiterated. “I've got a very strong foundation left by Joe, and I will build on that.”