ACSO saying goodbye to chief deputy, investigator

Published 11:00 am Sunday, December 10, 2023

NATCHEZ — Adams County Sheriff’s Office will be saying goodbye to two of its longest-serving deputies in the coming weeks.

Major Frank Smith of ACSO’s Criminal Investigation Division is resigning to work as an investigator in District Attorney-Elect Tim Cotton’s new office after 32 years of service to the department.

Major Frank Smith is stepping away from ACSO to join the new DA’s office.

At the same time, Chief Deputy Billy Neely announced his upcoming retirement from ACSO.

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“Those two have 76 years of service combined,” Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said, adding, “We have been grooming the next set to step right up. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. We wish them well but we are ready to carry the load.”

Chief Shane Daugherty told Adams County Supervisors on Monday of a special send-off celebration for the two deputies on Dec. 22, after the swearing-in ceremony for elected county officials.

The swearing-in is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 22 at the Adams County Safe Room. At 1 p.m. following the ceremony, officials were invited to ACSO’s firing range at 200 Foster Mound Road to say farewell to Smith and Neely.

Smith spent seven years in the Marine Corps before starting at ACSO in 1991 and climbed his way through the ranks from jailer to patrol officer, K9 officer, commander of narcotics, to leading the investigative division.

“Major Frank Smith has served his country in the Marine Corps and his community at ACSO for 32 years. I’m glad to see him have a change of venue in the latter years of his career that will send him on to the next level,” Patten said. “To survive 32 years in law enforcement in this day’s climate is rare. I’m glad to see him with the opportunity to serve in a better situation and I thank him for his service to this community, this state and this nation. He’s been an asset to me in my tenure at ACSO and I know he will be an even bigger asset to the DA’s office.”

Neely first worked at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola before he started working at the sheriff’s office on Sept. 1, 1982.

“It’s been that long,” Neely said. “I’m ready. It’s been fun but you’ve got to call it quits at some point. I’m going to let the younger guys step up to the plate. … I’m going to retire with 44.08 years. I don’t know of anyone else that has ever worked (in law enforcement) that long, including the sheriff.”

Neely started working at ACSO as a jailer and climbed is way through the ranks.

He made Major during Sheriff Ronnie Brown’s administration in 2007. In 2019, after Chief Deputy Wayne Rabb died suddenly after an allergic reaction to a wasp sting, Patten asked Neely to be his chief deputy.

“That was a position I never wanted,” he said. “It carries a lot of responsibility. We’re involved with the day-to-day plans of making this office run and we have an input on just about everything that goes through this office.”

Neely said he and Chief Deputy Rabb were really close.

When the sheriff offered him the job, “It floored me,” he said. “I never knew I’d make it that far. What better way to retire than as the chief deputy? That’s the highest rank besides the sheriff.”

Neely has worked for six sheriffs, including Ronnie Brown’s wife when she served for about six months when Brown died before the end of his final term.

“When I started, I wanted to make a career of it and I did,” he said. “It gets in your blood. … At this job, it’s always something different every day. That’s what I like about it. There’s always new challenges.”

Neely said there were about two deputies assigned to each shift when he first started, covering the entire county. Now things have changed.

“Crime has changed in the past ten years and has gotten really bad during COVID,” he said. “I’m glad that I got in early and I’m able to leave now. I think about all the guys still working here who can’t retire yet. It is a lot more (challenging) now. Back then everything was more hands-on and we didn’t have the body (cameras). … Policing has changed over the last 15 years.”

Neely’s last day is Dec. 26, after which he plans to travel more.

“I’ll still be here around Natchez and I’m going to start enjoying retirement. My wife (Lorri) and I are going to travel. I’ve been all over the US on a motorcycle to 48 states and I told her everywhere I’ve been on a motorcycle I was going to take her in a car, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Patten thanked Neely for his service to both his community and to himself as sheriff.

“To have been here that long, he’s cut from a different cloth,” Patten said. “He’s been an asset to myself and to five other sheriffs before me. For 44 years, strong, he has served with honor and integrity. We can’t thank him enough for that and we’re glad to give him his honors and his flowers while he’s still here with us. Thank you, Chief Neely, for all you’ve done for this community and for me personally as sheriff. Your advice has helped shape the kind of sheriff I am today and just want to say that and thank you publicly.”