Murray County

December 14, 2012

Coworkers say outgoing judge ‘one of our best friends’

CHATSWORTH — Dwayne Hooper said he only applied for the position of part-time Murray County magistrate to start with because he needed a job and the position was open.

Now, 22 years and several election cycles later, he’s saying goodbye to the post and the people he’s come to know during that time. The lifelong Murray County resident decided earlier this year to run for the position of chief magistrate. He lost to incumbent Bryant Cochran, who resigned later in the midst of ethics and criminal investigations that are ongoing. Cochran has denied wrongdoing except for pre-signing a handful of warrants, which he said were never distributed nor intended to be executed without a hearing.

Dozens of well-wishers stopped by a party that Hooper’s coworkers prepared for him and funded themselves in a courtroom at the Murray County Annex on Thursday. Many hugged him. Several thanked him for his advice and mentorship over the years.

“No matter what you do, if you do it for 22 years, you’ll miss it, but more than that, you’ll miss the people,” Hooper said.

Hooper still doesn’t know exactly what he’ll do in retirement, but he said he has no regrets about resigning to run for the chief’s job.

“I’d do it again,” he said. “Even if I knew the results were the same, I’d do it again.”

Hooper criticized Cochran during the election campaign for having “dismissed too many cases” and said he was “not happy with the direction the court has taken during the past few years.” Cochran won the election handily with 61 percent of the vote to Hooper’s roughly 39 percent.

Three women who work in the Magistrate Court office filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging they were in a hostile, sexually-charged work environment while Cochran was in charge, but they had high praise for Hooper.

Secretary Jesie Galvan said she could hardly find words to express how much she has enjoyed working with Hooper. Everyone who came in the door was treated with equal respect, she said, and employees with questions could call him even on days he wasn’t scheduled to work and find a gladly given answer.

“It’s just been a pleasure,” Galvan said. “Ever since I started working there (five years ago), he’s always showed respect for everybody. ... I hate it that he has to leave, but it was a true honor to work with him.”

Secretary Sonya Petty described Hooper as “one of our best friends” and more than just a boss.

Gale Buckner, who was appointed chief magistrate after Cochran resigned, called Hooper “a fine man, a man of honor and integrity.”

Jason Osgatharp, manager of the county’s environmental health office, said he’s come to enjoy interacting with Hooper during the seven years Osgatharp has worked for the county. The two talk hunting or discuss their kids.

“He’s always giving me advice on child-rearing and that sort of thing,” Osgatharp said. “He’s just always been a real good friend to me, and I think a lot of him and his family.”

Hooper has four children and is married to Tracy. One child is a junior at Southern Polytechnical University, one is a freshman at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and two — ages 8 and 12 — are still living at home.

Hooper’s last day with the county is Dec. 31.

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