This was part of the praise given Hood last week as part of his retirement ceremony as chief of Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services.
More than 300 fellow firefighters, Clayton County elected officials and employees, state house and senate representatives and many other Clayton residents attended Hood’s retirement.
He was praised with being at the helm of a department who drew national notoriety on several fronts while also saving a fellow public safety member from almost certain death in an act of heroism.
Hood received numerous gifts from the department for his service plus letters of congratulations from District 13 Congressman David Scott, D-Ga., the Clayton County Commission, and a state house resolution from District 78 state Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge plus other congratulatory letters.
Retired Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services Chief and former Clayton County government chief of staff, Alex Cohilas, recalled when he met Hood in 1978 when Hood joined the department.
“When I first met Jeff,” Cohilas said, “I had no idea he would become one of my life-long friends.”
“My first impression of Jeff was as a skinny little kid with a full head of red hair,” he said. “However, the job he is now entering as a civilian will likely make you lose your hair.”
Cohilas said Hood helped build a fire department in all aspects, including promotions that, under his leadership, centered on “what you know and not who you know.”
“Each member of this fire department, regardless of race, color, creed or gender, should give Chief Hood a tip of the cap for what he did to improve themselves and this department,” Cohilas said.
He went on to describe Hood as a firefighter, an officer and a paramedic, “but, at the top of that list of credentials is the one word that best describes him, a leader,” Cohilas said.
Seemingly a bit overwhelmed by the praise, Hood challenged those gathered, especially those who were new to the fire and emergency services department, to “take advantage of every opportunity at the time it is presented,” Hood said.
“You need to do that throughout your career because when you stand here, like I am today at retirement, it is too late,” he said.
“What you have done prior to your retirement from public safety, that is your legacy,” Hood said.
Hood praised his wife of 31 years, Suzanne, for “sustaining me and supporting me and giving me advice, some of which I even took,” he said with a smile.
According to Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner, the commission has chosen Dwayne Johnson as interim fire chief as the county now undertakes a nationwide search for the next chief.