Chief Deputy Lynda Coker, 66, moved to Cobb in 1980 with her husband Gene Coker.
Originally from north Florida, her husband’s job with AT&T brought the couple to the area, specifically east Cobb, and since that time she’s served in an array of positions with the county, including as an educator, with the sheriff’s office, in the Georgia House of Representatives and on the YWCA Board of Directors.
“I like to tell people that it’s not retirement, it’s ‘Gene Coker time,’” she said. “I will never, ever in my heart leave the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office. It has probably been the most fantastic, professional opportunity that I could have ever had.”
Coker’s last day with the local department was on May 31. Her successor will be Col. Milton Beck, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1989.
“I wish Lynda Coker much happiness in retirement as she spends time with her husband and her family,” Beck said. “I can never fill Lynda’s shoes and I will never try to, but she has been one of my mentors for many years and I wish her the best of luck in her next chapter of life.”
Coker was excited to hear that Beck will be her replacement.
“I think he is ready for it,” Coker said. “I’m so proud of him and think highly of him. He’s one of those I mentored and I think he’s ready and will do a great job.”
Her career with the Sheriff’s Office began in 1986 after she was introduced to retired Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson by former U.S. Representative Buddy Darden.
Darden said Coker worked on his initial congressional campaign prior to his taking office in 1983.
“She played a major role in my election, and it was a great loss when she chose to leave the congressional office,” he said Sunday. “She was always a very capable, competent employee who, once she was assigned a task and took it over, she always saw to it that the job was done well.”
Darden went on to say that Cobb County is losing a great employee with Coker’s retirement, but feels that if anyone deserves a chance to settle back and visit family, it’s definitely Coker.
But, Coker said, she never regretted that first conversation she had with Hutson after the introduction from Darden into the Sheriff’s Office. Her initial position in the department was serving as the sheriff’s executive assistant and helping him work with the media on various cases.
“Sheriff Hutson thought it was very important for the media to have good, correct information,” Coker said.
She later earned her badge at the police academy in 1989, worked her way up in the ranks and became the chief deputy in 2003 under Sheriff Neil Warren.
“When I appointed Lynda as my chief deputy, I wanted to surround myself with the best management team and people I could trust,” Warren said recently. “Lynda has been a tremendous asset to our agency and her no-nonsense style of management is one of the reasons the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office is one of the most respected agencies in the state. I have always valued her friendship and support.”
Georgia General Assembly
The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t Coker’s only run at working in the public sector during her 27 years with the county department.
She decided in 1990, with the guidance of Warren, to run for the Georgia House of Representatives. She replaced now-U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who had chosen not to run for his 31st District seat at the time.
“There had not been many females elected in the General Assembly at that time,” she remembered. “But Sheriff Warren was very supportive.”
She won by an almost 15 percent margin the first go-round and stayed with the House through three, two-year terms.
“The day I was sworn in was a little bit overwhelming,” she said. “I was not 100 percent sure what or how it would all happen and I was a nervous wreck, but I knew I could represent Cobb County, stay on the issues and bring my goals to the chamber.”
A few of her proudest moments serving as a state representative were when she helped push two bills through.
One was for intensive background checks for anyone seeking a gun permit.
“Republicans at that time were opposed to anything with guns,” she said. “I was intense on the background checks and pushed hard for a valid, correct background check.”
Coker also had another bill passed that required any convicted felon arrested on charges relating to possession of a gun during the commission of a crime to be sentenced to prison for at least five years.
“A lot of my constituents in east Cobb were not sure if people really needed guns … they were more concerned about who had the guns,” she said, referencing violent criminals. “This bill kept repeat offenders behind bars.”
After her third term, she chose to return to the local Sheriff’s Office full time and didn’t look back.
The next chapter
Coker said she has enjoyed every moment of serving as chief deputy, and will miss the various programs she helped start, like bringing resource officers into public schools, working closely with families in domestic violence situations and educating school children about the dangers of drugs.
But what she will miss the most are her colleagues with the county department.
“I have been so fortunate the last 27 years,” she said. “All the men and women in the Sheriff’s Office are like my second family to me. I’ve watched and mentored a lot of them and tried to communicate that no matter what you are doing, you are always learning, and that the nature of the profession is to cover the back of your co-worker.”
She and her husband, who retired about five years ago, will now spend time with their three grandchildren in New Orleans and north Georgia, as well as travel.
“Gene loves Colorado and loves to fly fish, which I’m not sure how good I’ll be at, but we’ll see,” she said with a smile. “We are also going to Alaska in August with my siblings.”