County eyes Huff to lead new center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Adams County supervisors and Natchez aldermen are considering having Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff assist with the leadership of the county’s new Juvenile Justice Center.

Natchez Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said there has been talk about having Huff serve as an organizer or liaison for the center.

A decision has not been finalized but West said he supports the idea as long as it is legal.

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&uot;If the city attorney says it can be done, then I have no problem with him doing it,&uot; West said.

West, who is over law enforcement for the City of Natchez, said he wanted Adams County to use someone local to operate the center – either Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell or Huff.

&uot;They are familiar with the youth of this community,&uot; West said. &uot;I don’t think we need to go to an outside source to deal with our young kids.&uot;

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said he hoped the aldermen would make a decision on this matter today.

Although he could not speak for the board, Smith said he personally supported the idea.

&uot;(Willie Huff) certainly has the knowledge and the experience to set up a detention center, and he has always expressed and has shown a desire to work with youth,&uot; Smith said.

The Adams County Juvenile Justice Center is still under construction on State Street and is expected to open in September.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors met in executive session Monday to discuss plans to get the center up and running as scheduled.

&uot;(County Administrator Charlie Brown) had asked for us to come over there and deal with purchasing issues,&uot; said Adams County County and Youth Court Judge John Hudson about the meeting.

The board set August 15 as the deadline to have items such as soap, linens and mattresses ordered with all those items to be financed with money set aside for the center during the current fiscal year, Hudson said.

Hudson refrained from commenting on Huff’s work with the center since it has not been finalized, but he is pleased with Huff’s experience in operating jails and his involvement with the youth court.

&uot;He has been integrally involved with all the youth court activities over the last (several) years,&uot; Hudson said.

Huff said the decision was up to the Adams County supervisors, the Natchez aldermen and Hudson but he would consider assisting with the center.

&uot;Most of the kids that will be in (the center) will be city kids, and I’m honored that they’re considering it&uot; Huff said. &uot;I’ll be glad to help Judge (John) Hudson out with overseeing the juvenile center.&uot;

Huff said he was not aware of all the details but said the center &uot;would be like another section of the police department&uot; if he oversaw its operations.

An important component to running the center would be hiring qualified staff, Huff said.

&uot;I’m honored that the (Adams County) Board of Supervisors and the judge have faith in me to take on the responsibilities and do it right,&uot; he said.

The supervisors and Hudson discussed hiring 10 officers to run the center about 30 to 45 days prior to the center’s opening date in September.

The center would also most likely need an on-site director to handle day-to-day operations, Hudson said.

Adams County Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said since the youth court judge has jurisdiction over the juvenile justice center under the law, the board is waiting for direction from Hudson on the subject.

But Cauthen said he thinks having Huff involved will help get the center off on the right foot.