ATOKA, OK - One man who won't be running for office this time around is Atoka County Sheriff Gary McCool.
Victoria Maranan sat down with one of the state's longest serving active sheriff about his time in office and what he plans to do next.
Sheriff McCool has served the citizens of Atoka County for the past 24 years. He said when he started, there were only two deputies, no patrol units and no walkie talkies. McCool said some of his favorite memories involved solving crime and helping people get back on their feet. But now, it's time to hang up his hat and move on.
Atoka Sheriff Gary McCool is stepping down after 24 years in office.
"I'm leaving without no regrets. I've enjoyed the service," he said.
He ran for sheriff for the first time in 1989 and said it was the community that kept him in office for five terms.
"It motivates the sheriff if he has the people's support, it really helps him or her to get out and do their job. I've certainly had that," McCool said.
McCool said he has seen growth during his time as sheriff: the building of the Atoka County Jail, the sheriff's office hiring more deputies and updating their equipment. He also saw his share of crime.
But the experience that sticks out the most in his mind was when a tornado struck the town of Tushka last year, killing two people.
"It's probably the worst things that we've gone through," he said. "To only lose two people when it could've easily been 100 to 150 is nothing short of a miracle."
Atoka Co. Undersheriff Tony Taylor said no matter what, Sheriff McCool has always been committed to the job.
"Honesty has a lot to do with it. Out here doing things at night, he's always there and of course we have to work as a team, and we do, you know?" He said.
McCool said it's not a 9 to 5 job. There are days he spends 12 to 14 hours at work.
"There's a lot of ups and downs in this office. It's a stressful job. The average person doesn't know what goes on in the sheriff's office," he said.
And he said it's time to pass the torch.
"The office is in good shape now. The man that comes after me, he's not gonna have to struggle if he he'll just manage," he said.
He has some advice to his successor.
"Try not to take your job home and probably the biggest advice I'd have is go to church," he said.
"He's gonna be missed. We're all family around here and it'll be like losing somebody you know? We're gonna see him eventually again, you know, but it's not everyday," said Undersheriff Taylor.
"I hate to see him go because he's a good sheriff, and above that, he's a good person," said Sheriff's Deputy, Carlin Weeden.
Sheriff McCool said he's planning to spend more time with his family and work on his property when he retires. He also said he would like to do some more hunting and fishing too.
McCool's last day in office is December 31st.
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