An engraved time piece is what Lt. Gerald Couch's peers chose to send him off with Friday.
His Hall County Sheriff's Office co-workers thanked him for the 30 years he worked beside them to help protect unincorporated Hall County residents and wished him good luck for his upcoming promise to protect residents of Gainesville, too.
Couch is retiring from Hall County and will take over as major and second in command for Gainesville Police. He will be sworn in April 18, Chief Brian Kelly said.
"That clock is awesome. I'm going to make sure I'm not late for work at my new job," Couch said. "Two to three months ago I had no idea this would be happening. It goes to show, you never know what life holds for you."
Couch started working for the sheriff's office at 19. He spent nine years in the patrol division before finding his calling as an investigator.
He worked cases involving crimes against people, be they sexual assaults, robberies, homicides or others, earning a sterling reputation among prosecutors and defense attorneys alike, Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard said.
"With Lt. Couch, you never have to question the ethics, thoroughness or anything, from a traffic citation to a death penalty case," Woodard said. "It is public servants like this .... our community does not even realize what this one person has done."
District Attorney Lee Darragh offered his personal thanks to Couch before dozens gathered in Couch's honor at the Law Enforcement Center.
"A prosecutor can't do a good job without a good investigator," Darragh said. "What I've always found in him is someone with great competence and integrity. We appreciate you."
Kelly, who Couch will report to directly, congratulated him on his retirement milestone Friday and expressed eagerness to put him right back to work. The Gainesville department is planning a formal welcome on Couch's first day, Kelly said.
"Thirty years is a long time. That he wants to continue his service with Gainesville Police makes me proud," Kelly said. "I'm looking forward to putting his knowledge to use."
Dozens of deputies applauded Couch who arrived to the meeting room having just hung up with the coroner about a case.
"I was working!" he said, with a smile.
For most of the day, Couch cleaned out his desk, which he said was no easy task after 30 years.
He looked around the room and acknowledged the friends and experiences accumulated over the years and thanked his colleagues for their time, most of all.
Leaving, Couch said, is bittersweet.
"I will not forget where I came from," he said.