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Gainesvilles police chief honored at retirement bash
Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper holds his granddaughter, Kacey Hooper, 2, during his retirement celebration Friday at the Gainesville Civic Center. Hooper’s last day on the job is Dec. 31. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The accolades came pouring in Friday for Frank Hooper.

Friends, family, associates and fellow law officers came to praise and congratulate the retiring police chief at an informal reception two weeks before he ends a 32-year career with the Gainesville Police Department.

Only a few people made speeches to the assembled crowd at the Gainesville Civic Center, but those asked to comment about the chief for The Times described Hooper as personable, even-tempered, considerate and accessible, while deeply committed to making the department better than he found it.

"He’s a caring and thoughtful man who has really dedicated himself to the safety of the city," said Carlyle Cox, the former Gainesville city manager who tapped Hopper as police chief 12 years ago and stopped in Friday to shake Hooper’s hand and congratulate him on a job well done. "He was the type of person we needed, and he sure did fit the bill. It was the best decision that could have been made."

Hooper, whose father Roy Franklin Hooper Sr. served on the Gainesville police force for 25 years before him, is retiring after spending his entire career with the department. He was joined in Friday’s celebration by his wife and family, including his 89-year-old mother.

Hooper’s cousin, Brenda Oliver, said Hooper realized his childhood dream.

"That was his desire from the time he was a little boy, to follow in his father’s footsteps, and it’s been his life the last 32 years," she said.

"Frankie really represents the best in the city and his profession," Sammy Smith said. "He’s a likeable fellow, and really much of the credit that the department has earned is due to his personal leadership style."

Former Hall County Sheriff and current U.S. Marshal Dick Mecum said Hooper’s personality was perfect for the job: "He doesn’t get rattled; he doesn’t get excited; he keeps a level head and a cool head."

At the podium, a pair of police chiefs who looked to Hooper as a mentor described a man who was glad to offer advice.

"It’s not about what you’ve accomplished, it’s about the lives that you’ve touched," said Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, a personal friend of Hooper’s. "Looking out in this room, I see the faces of people who I know Frank Hooper has touched. The legacy of Frank Hooper will live in the city of Gainesville in the lives that he has touched."

Hooper, in brief remarks, deflected the praise to his officers and staff. He thanked the City Council for supporting him on the job and his family for supporting him at home.

"It’s been a great career; I’ve enjoyed it," Hooper said. "It’s been a pleasure to serve as your police chief, and I know I’m leaving the department in good hands. We’ve got a great agency, and I appreciate the work that y’all do every day."