Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the year.
The 32-year veteran of the department said he has met the goals he set for himself and feels that now is the right time to go.
“My goal was to leave this department better than I found it,” Hooper said. “I think I’ve achieved that.”
Hooper said there were a number of things that led him leave the police department Dec. 31.
When Hooper became chief 12 years ago, he made a list of things he hoped to accomplish before he retired.
“I’ve achieved those goals,” Hooper said. “The last goal I really set was for a new (public safety) facility.”
Hooper said he is glad to see the building, which was funded by SPLOST VI, about 50 percent complete.
He now wants his employees to be able to take ownership of the new facility and enjoy working in it for years to come.
“I’ve known in my heart that this was a building I would not work in,” Hooper said.
Hooper is a second generation Gainesville Police Officer who started working at the department just after his 20th birthday in 1978.
Hooper’s father retired as a captain in 1977, the year before Hooper joined the department.
With 32 years under his belt, Hooper said he has flirted with the idea of retirement for a few years.
“I’ve been eligible for retirement for probably about seven years,” Hooper said. “I’ve pretty much topped out as far as my benefit would go.”
The right time presented itself when Hooper realized he could help the city by retiring.
Gainesville announced this week that city employees will begin taking a mandatory one day a month furlough in an effort to combat low sales tax revenues.
“If I can leave and it benefit the employees here by having that extra salary money in the budget,” Hooper said. “They’ll have six months of my salary they can hopefully use to minimize the furloughs.”
Deputy Chief of Police Jane Nichols, who has known Hooper since elementary school, said his decision is reflective of his character.
“That’s just the kind of man he is,” Nichols said. “He told the city manager to use his salary to keep the police officers out on the streets. ... It humbles you to know you’ve worked for someone like that.”
Nichols, who has known Hooper since the fourth grade, said everyone in the Gainesville Police Department will miss Hooper when he walks out the door Dec. 31.
“He’s more than just our boss,” Nichols said. “Those of us that don’t even cry choked up thinking about him leaving.”
Hooper said he will be dedicating his time to his family once he retires — especially his two granddaughters, Kacey and Georgia.
“My mom is 89 years old,” Hooper said. “This will give me more time to spend with her.”
He said he also has a camper in his yard that he looks forward to getting more use out of.
“Teresa and I have been married for 34 years,” Hooper said. “Now it’s time for me and her to enjoy life.”
City Councilman George Wangemann said Hooper is an asset to the city who will be missed greatly.
“He’s taken our police department to new heights,” Wangemann said. “I’ll put him up against any chief in the nation.”
Wangemann said he also respects Hooper for what he does outside of work.
“Chief Hooper is a strong Christian man,” Wangemann said. “He’s a real community-minded person.”
Hooper said his last two months with the police department will not be easy ones.
“November and December are some of our busiest months with the holidays,” Hooper said.
The department is also seeking its sixth national accreditation, a prestigious distinction that Hooper pioneered for the department.
Hooper has won many accolades during his time with the department.
In 2007, he was named Outstanding Chief of the Year by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. He has also been named the Elks Club’s Public Safety Officer of the Year and won the Rotary Club of Gainesville’s Lee Arrendale Award for Vocational Excellence.
Hooper said once he leaves, he has no doubt that things will continue to run smoothly.
“The department will be in very capable hands,” Hooper said. “I think it would be very appropriate to appoint (Nichols) as the interim chief.”
Hooper said he hopes to leave the city on a positive note, and city officials say though they are sad to see him go, they understand it is time.
“Frank Hooper is the kind of man you can always count on to do the right thing. He has been a leader for hundreds of young men and women in his department and in our community. When it comes to experience, loyalty and dedication he is irreplaceable,” said City Manager Kip Padgett.