Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Jeff Hood started his career more than 30 years ago, as a firefighter, and worked his way through the ranks to achieve the pinnacle of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department.
Hood was sworn in Thursday afternoon as chief of the department. He was surrounded by his fellow firefighters, family members, and elected officials.
"He joins many of us who started out at the bottom and went all the way to the top," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell. "The mantle is passed from Alex Cohilas to you, Jeff Hood, at this high hour."
The rest of the commissioners took turns showering accolades on Hood in front of a standing-room only crowd inside the commission's meeting room, in Jonesboro.
"There are very few opportunities when this room is full of loving family and friends, coming together to hear the accomplishments one person has achieved," said Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph. "This speaks to the work the fire department has done, and the time and sacrifices each member of the fire department has made."
Commissioners Gail Hambrick and Michael Edmondson thanked Hood, and congratulated him, before Commissioner Sonna Singleton made Hood's formal introduction.
"No one, and I mean no one, represents these three words -- honor, courage and commitment -- better than Chief Jeff Hood," she said. "He is the consummate professional."
Hood had been serving as interim chief since Christmas Day, following Alex Cohilas' retirement. The board voted unanimously April 5, to make his position permanent.
Hood said he will continue a commitment to excellence.
"Our mission is clear," he said. "And failure will never, ever be an option."
Hood spent most of his career serving with the now-retired Cohilas, who attended the ceremony, but only as a spectator.
"I have a more than 30-year relationship with Jeff, and he's been perfectly groomed for this job," Cohilas said after the ceremony ended.
"He was an integral part of the success of my administration, and the future of our department is in excellent hands. I take great comfort in his appointment."
Hood's wife of 29 years, Suzanne, and sons, Jeffrey, Jr., and Justin, attended Thursday's event. His parents, Ray and Francis Hood, and in-laws, Jack and Gladys Dillard, also were present.
Suzanne Hood said she is proud of her husband.
"He's a good man," she said. "I don't want to sound cliched, but he's always been my hero."