Top cop retires, Smith to take over

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — The challenge won’t change, but the top cop does after city council accepted on Wednesday the resignation of Police Chief Jeffrey Meussner, whose retirement from the department will be official July 1.

Meussner’s retirement brings to an end a 26-year career in law enforcement that included serving as chief since September 2010. At time, Meussner was deputy chief, a position eliminated along with its fire department counterpart in the fire department when the public safety director position held by former chief Thomas Coombs was created. Within that structure, the police and fire chiefs report to Coombs, and do not have deputy chiefs on staff.

Beginning July 1, Patrol Lt. Jeffrey Smith will succeed Meussner as chief, bringing 18 years of department experience to the job. Mayor Joseph Kuspa said that the priority for the position remains the same no matter which officer serves.

“He’s joining a team that’s trying to do more with less,” Kuspa said. “Those challenges have not gone away.”

Kuspa said that the department and city have been able to avoid the layoffs suffered by nearby cities, especially in public safety, and through attrition have fewer resources than in recent years.

“We want to maintain our utmost commitment to public safety,” Kuspa said. “Jeff Smith is prepared to do that after 18 years.”

During the regular city council meeting Wednesday, a binding agreement was approved to appoint Smith as chief. Smith will be paid $92,000 annually.

(James Mitchell can be reached at