“There were 35,000 people in Smyrna when I came here,” said Hook, a native of New York. Smyrna now has more than 51,000 residents, according to the 2010 census.
Hook, 73, and his wife, Patricia, plan to stay in Smyrna, though they also have a home in Florida. They also have a new grandchild in South Carolina, so there will be plenty of trips there, he said.
“If I stayed until next June, I’d have 50 years as a police officer,” Hook said. “The missus told me it’s time to come home.”
The city is reviewing applicants for the job. There were a total of 51 applications, and 15 of those met initial qualifications for the job, Hook said. The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police will further whittle down the list before city leaders make a selection. Four or five applications came from inside the department, Hook said.
Hook’s salary is just over $100,000 per year. His department has an annual budget of about $9.3 million and 92 officers.
Hook said he’d like to have more police officers.
“We would be in pretty good shape if we had six or seven more officers,” he said. “There’s too much activity going on all the time.”
Mayor Max Bacon described Hook as “just a common-sense guy.”
“He’s so level-headed,” the mayor said. “He never gets riled up. We’re lucky to have had him as our chief for 22 years.”
Before he came to Smyrna about 1990, Hook spent 27 years as a New York State Trooper in the Adirondacks region.
“When you’re in this business a long time, everything becomes routine to you,” Hook said. “In police work, you start out as an officer, and investigate crimes. It’s a lot of fun. Then you get promoted and become an administrator, and pretty soon there’s nothing left that resembles being a policeman.”
Bacon said he quickly knew Hook was right for the job.
“When we were hiring, the first thing I asked was, ‘Why are we interviewing someone from New York?’ But less than five minutes into the interview, I said ‘He’s the guy,’” Bacon said. “He came to work in a time when the department was not as operational-ready as it could have been, and he turned that around. He and I have had a great relationship because I didn’t try to run his department. He’s a one-of-a-kind chief. At one time, he was the most popular guy in Smyrna. People wanted to hear him speak before they wanted to hear the mayor speak.
“Plus, he’s a hell of a golfer.”
Although Hook said the city has naturally changed in his two decades as chief, he doesn’t see any one major challenge ahead for his successor.
“We’re like a nice safe haven in the middle of chaos,” he said of the city. “I feel safe and secure when I go out at night.”
Hook has agreed to stay on until a new chief is in place, though he and the mayor gave different timelines for that. Hook said he would likely remain on the job until mid-December, whereas Bacon said he hopes to name a new chief by Feb. 1.
Hook will also be among those helping select the new chief, he said.
“They figure after 49 years, I might know something about it,” he said.