CLAY COUNTY – Atlantic Beach Chief of Police Michelle Cook is looking to return to Clay County – this time as sheriff.
“Clay County is my home,” Cook said. “I’ve always considered Clay County my home. I just feel a calling to come home and run... Clay County.”
Cook has been in law enforcement for the last 28 years, serving with four sheriffs and holding just about every position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office before retiring three years ago as the Director of Operations. Cook then moved on to her current position at Atlantic Beach.
She originally wanted to join the U.S. Navy, following in the footsteps of her sailor father, who retired as a Senior Chief.
“I was very interested in going into the Navy, like my father. I scored very high on the ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery]. I remember the recruiter was all excited talking to me. They were going down the list of things that would prevent you from joining the military and they said ‘asthma’ and I said yes, and they said, ‘ok, this interview is done,’” Cook remembers with a giggle.
After going on to college, she originally wanted to go study education, but that all changed when she did a ride-along with a local police officer.
“The moment I sat down in that car, I knew it was for me,” she said. “I literally went that week and changed my major to criminal justice. It just felt right; the opportunity to serve, to be out in the community, talking to people, interacting with people was all something that was very appealing to me.”
She eventually joined the JSO and rose through the ranks during a distinguished career.
“When I was a street sergeant, that was a lot of fun,” said Cook. “You got to influence young officers and work one on one with the officers on the street and have an impact on them. The other job I really enjoyed was the last one, the Director of Operations. Having 1,000 policemen working for me and being able to help the sheriff implement different initiatives along the way.”
With everything she’s accomplished, Cook, is still relatively young.
“The citizens of Clay County deserve a sheriff they can be proud of,” said Cook.
Current Sheriff Darryl Daniels has not yet officially filed to run for reelection. His office currently is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after he admitted to an extramarital affair last summer.
Cook will join a field of candidates that already includes Harold Rutledge, Ben Carroll, Catherine Webb and Mike Taylor
“The type of leadership that I bring to the table. My history of leading men and women. It’s the type of leader that I am. I’m genuine and responsive and transparent. I care about the community that I serve,” Cook said.
Cook has held numerous roles over her career such as Assistant Chief of Narcotics and Vice, incident commander during SWAT/Negotiator call-outs and Training Academy Director. She is also well-versed in active shooter response and has given training nationwide in that discipline.
Cook has a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of North Florida. She and her husband, Don, have four children.