Staff Photo: Keith Farner Suwanee Capt. Cass Mooney, right, was honored by the Suwanee City Council on Tuesday for 15 years of service. Mooney, a Lawrenceville native, said he enjoys the small-town feel of Suwanee and hopes to retire from its police department.
SUWANEE -- When Cass Mooney came to work for the city of Suwanee, the depth of the police department often meant he was the only officer on patrol.
And when Chief Mike Jones went to promote a patrolman to sergeant, he had to revise the qualifications twice to match the department's relative lack of experience. But in those 15 years, the department -- now nationally accredited -- and Mooney have made significant strides.
Mooney has finished two degrees and earned national management certification. His daughter, one month old when he started, is now nearly driving, much to his chagrin. And he's now one of seven officers in the department with at least 15 years of experience. Mooney, a Lawrenceville native, was recognized on Tuesday at a City Council meeting for his years of service to the city.
At the meeting, Jones said Mooney is the picture of the ideal officer, someone who volunteers to work events or applies to work investigations. Mooney has been an integral part of the planning team for Suwanee Day, only to miss the annual event when his children were born.
"He loved this city so much, he moved here because wanted his children to go to Suwanee schools," Jones said. "I've seen his family grow up."
Mooney, 38, now a captain in the department, began his career with the Hall County Sheriff's Department, but had a friend tell him how great it was to work in Suwanee, and Mooney soon moved because of better benefits.
Mooney said one the best decisions for he and his wife was moving within the city limits.
Mooney earned a four-year degree from North Georgia College while working in Suwanee.
"Suwanee's attitude is if we need to adjust your schedule for you to make classes, we'll work with you," he said.
After he earned the criminal justice degree from North Georgia College, Mooney earned a master's degree in public administration from Columbus State, and a certificate in management through the University of Virginia from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's national academy. He also has an associate's degree from Gainesville State College, and graduated from the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College executive training program.
That kind of resume qualifies Mooney to become a chief someday, but that's not his top priority.
"My goal is to stay in Suwanee until I retire," said Mooney, who added his first career aspiration was to be a wildlife ranger. "If I ever could become chief here that would be great, but I wouldn't leave Suwanee to be a chief somewhere else. I'd rather work my time out with the city and retire. If all works well, Chief Jones, he'll eventually retire, so my plan is to eventually be chief here."
Jones agrees that Mooney is on that path, and he takes it as a compliment.
"He's got all the credentials to be a chief of police one day," Jones said. "Of course as chief, the biggest honor I have is when I leave, retire, that they will take one of the officers in the department and make them Chief. That would be saying to me, 'Chief, you've done a good job.'"
When Mooney joined the city, the population was only a few thousand people, but the police department also had just 21 officers, compared with 36 today. But what appeals to Mooney about the city is its size and ability to have variety in his job.
"When you're in a big agency like Hall County or Gwinnett County, you're more of a number, you fill a space on a shift," he said. "Here, there's only 36 sworn officers, so we know each other's wives, we know each other's kids, it's more of a family atmosphere. One of the other good things about a small agency is we get to do a lot more because we don't have all of these specialized units that in a bigger agency (where) you take a report and leave."