CULLMAN, Ala. – For the last week there’s been talk regarding current Cullman Police Department’s Chief Kenny Culpepper’s retirement, supposedly slated for Dec. 31, 2022. The Tribune reached out to Chief Culpepper regarding the chatter running through back channels.
“I don’t want to be painted into a corner by saying this (certain date) is when I’m retiring,” Culpepper said Wednesday morning. “It is something I’ve thought about and considered but at this time I’ve not filled out the necessary paperwork to retire.”
Chief Culpepper was first hired at the CPD on Feb. 6, 1978. Over the next 10 years, Chief Culpepper rose through the ranks until he was promoted to his current position as Chief in Oct. 1988. Chief Culpeper has served the City of Cullman for 44 years.
Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs spoke to The Tribune and confirmed he was aware Chief Culpepper was considering the option to retire but has not been made aware of any specific time frame.
“Anytime someone has dedicated of themselves to public service for decades, there is always going to be hearsay that goes around concerning when that proverbial ‘torch’ will be passed onto the next group of leaders. Kenny has led our law enforcement and represented the City with integrity, character and dedication–the same way he lives his life. He’s earned the right to determine when the time is right, to weigh all the factors that go into a decision as such. That’s a decision which requires a lot of prayer and family discussion,” Mayor Jacobs said. “I am aware he is considering it, but I do not believe he’s done anything official, such as filing the required paperwork, or discussed this with the Council as a whole. Until then, it’s business as usual.”
When told that residents and elected officials had been inquiring about his decision, Culpepper had a slight laugh about the situation.
“I have discussed it in the past, but I have not made a firm decision that I’m retiring next month,” he said. “But again, I’m not trying to paint myself in a corner by saying I’m going to stay or go after this year. It’s a big decision.”
The paperwork Chief Culpepper referred to is Retirement Application Packet Part 1, a form all city employees must fill out from the Retirement Systems of Alabama. Before the form can be accessed the employee must meet certain criteria, which once he/she has at least 10 years of service credit and has reached the age of 60 (52 for State Police) or after accumulating 25 years of service credit at any age.
Once eligible, to apply for retirement, the employee must submit a “Retirement Application Packet Part 1” to the RSA.
According to city records, this packet is available to an employee on the ERS website or it can be requested from the RSA directly. This packet gives the RSA basic information, the requested retirement date, beneficiary designation, their notarized signature and direct deposit information.
City and state records show that retirement dates are always the first day of the month and the RSA must receive the application to retire no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days prior to the effective date of retirement.
According to Michelle Bates, Human Resources director for the City of Cullman, said “Nine times out of ten, the employee will come to my office, and I will provide them with the forms and help walk them through filling it out, getting it notarized and submitted, etc. There is also an employer verification section that we, as the employer, have to fill out,” Bates said. “If an employee chooses to submit their application directly to the RSA, I will be notified of the application by the RSA and asked to provide our verification online through their secure web portal.”
Bates stated that once the RSA has received the initial application to retire, it will send directly to the employee, via mail, “Part II” of the application process.
“This includes the retirement option selection form (this gives them options regarding whether or not they would like to elect the maximum benefit, or would like to select a lesser amount in order to have a survivor benefit paid to their named beneficiary in the event of their death), and also a tax withholding form, which instructs the RSA in how they would like taxes withheld from their benefits,” she said.
Bates said once those documents are submitted that it completes the employee requirements.
Wednesday evening Cullman City Council President Jenny Folsom replied to The Tribune about the murmurs regarding Chief Culpepper’s retirement.
“I am not aware of a formal date for Kenny’s retirement, but also have heard he is thinking about it. When he does step down it will be a tremendous loss for the city. Kenny has served Cullman very well and is respected by others in the law enforcement profession,” Folsom said. “Kenny has the unique ability to always be calm and controlled in tense, stressful, dangerous situations policemen often experience. That temperament has helped him and his team defuse many situations that had potential for much difference outcomes. The city council will be responsible for finding his replacement and I think that will be a very difficult task.”
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