By Jason A. Smith
After years of tending to the needs of jail inmates in Henry County, sheriff's Capt. Sandra Cook said she is leaving her post to focus on a much smaller group of people -- her two grandchildren.
Cook retired from her post overseeing the Henry sheriff's office's administrative division. A reception was held in her honor at the sheriff's office Friday.
Cook, 66, came to work at the office 13 years ago, when Don Chaffin was sheriff. Prior to that time, said Cook, she had never worked in law enforcement.
"I had a Merle Norman business of my own, and couldn't make a living at it," she said. "I had always been around law enforcement, and Sheriff Chaffin was a friend of mine. When I first started thinking about coming here, it wasn't to be in law enforcement, but once I came here, I decided I wanted to be a deputy in the jail."
Cook said she was surprised, early in her career at the jail, to discover various aspects of the facility's operation. "A tour of the jail shocked me," she said. "I guess I had lived a sheltered life."
She has served since August 2007 as a captain in the administrative division of the sheriff's office. Cook said she has always tried to see that jail inmates and their families are "treated the way they should be treated."
"We're all human beings, made in God's image, whether we do right or wrong," said Cook. "I never really had the ambition of wanting to make a difference in the inmates' lives ... but [I have tried] to help their families, because it is so overwhelming for families that are not used to this."
Cook described herself as a "bossy person," a quality which, according to her, has worked in her favor during her time working for the sheriff's office.
"I don't mind making decisions, and I don't mind asking forgiveness when I make the wrong decision," said Cook.
Through the years, she said she has developed what she calls an "admiration" for her co-workers in the law-enforcement field. She said although she continues to love the busyness of the sheriff's office, she anticipates a more relaxed pace with her grandson Tyler, 8, and her granddaughter Candice, 7.
"Because of things that I have seen -- especially the young people coming into the jail -- that's what gave a burden to want to retire, and to have more time with my grandbabies," said Cook. "They live with me. My life is going to revolve around them."
Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer was on hand for Cook's retirement reception. He said her "excellent leadership qualities" have been a factor in her effectiveness with the sheriff's office.
"She works really well with all the courts," said McBrayer. "She knows all those people, they have a good working relationship and they trust her. She's tough when she needs to be, working a jail environment, but she's very thorough and does a very good job. We're really going to miss having her here."
Cook, who has never been married, has an adopted daughter named Donna. She is a member of County Line Congregational Christian Church on Jonesboro Road in McDonough.