Sheriff Cook’s family moved to Clay County in the early 1980s when her father, a Navy veteran, was stationed at Naval Air Station Cecil Field. Michelle attended Orange Park Middle School and later graduated from Clay High School.
She entered the law enforcement profession as a Patrol Officer for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1992, working as a beat cop on the street. With earned promotions throughout her 26-year career at the agency, Michelle retired as a 3-star Director and 3rd in command from JSO, a 3,300-person agency and the nation’s 25th largest police department.
As Director of Patrol and Enforcement, her responsibilities included the strategic deployment and activities of over 1,000 first responders and community relations personnel, as well as direct management of a budget of over $100 million. She also was in charge of overseeing the more than 1,000 special events held in Downtown Jacksonville each year. Additionally, she served as the agency lead on collective bargaining and routinely worked with elected officials while promoting the law enforcement mission.
In 2017 Michelle accepted the position of Chief of Police for the City of Atlantic Beach in Duval County. Under her leadership, the ABPD, which serves approximately 14,000 residents, and handles approximately 25,000 calls for service each year, saw a decrease in the city’s crime rate along with improved employee morale and citizen support. She is credited with successfully leading the ABPD through the Florida Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation process and for writing the City of Atlantic Beach All-Hazard Response (hurricane) plan.
In early 2020, Michelle retired from the Atlantic Beach Police Department and began her campaign for Sheriff in the county where she was born and raised. She beat out five other candidates to win her primary and was declared the winner when a write-in candidate withdrew from the election. On September 1, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed her as the Clay County Sheriff to complete the term left vacant by her predecessor and on January 5, 2021, she was officially sworn in. Sheriff Cook has been appointed to serve on the Regional Domestic Security Task Force as co-chair and as a Commissioner on the Florida Commission for Accreditation.
Recognized for her extensive experience and leadership in law enforcement, she has built a reputation of being a firm, yet compassionate law enforcement leader, whose integrity and genuine management style bring respect not only from her work family, but also the community she serves. She currently serves as Board President for the Clay County Police Athletic League and as an Ex-Officio board member for the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.
Michelle is married to her husband Don, and between them, they have six children, four of whom were adopted out of the local foster care system.
Sheriff Cook’s career highlights include:
– Served as the Incident Commander during SWAT/Negotiator call-outs
– Training Academy Director; commanded the firing range, recruiting, basic recruit training, Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission Trust Fund Advanced and Specialized Training, and all police and corrections basic and in-service training requirements
– Assistant Chief of Narcotics and Vice; oversaw all undercover narcotics and vice operations, internet crimes against children, technical support, High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area member
– Chief of Professional Standards; commanded the firing range, training academy, polygraph unit, inspections, internal affairs, accreditation, crime analysis, continuous improvement, fusion center, and information systems management
– Commander of the Intelligence Unit; represented JSO on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, North Florida Fusion Cell, and served as key agency liaison to US Marshals and FBI
– Incident Commander for the North Florida All Hazards Team for hurricane and crisis response. Credentialed through the Emergency Management Institute as an Operations Section Chief and Incident Commander. Michelle has served as Incident Commander and Operations Section Chief for over 500 unplanned incidents and pre-planned events in the region, combining her extensive knowledge of the Incident Command System with real-world experience handling complex critical incidents
-Instructor/Consultant for an organization that provides training nationally for Active Shooter Incident Management. With her extensive experience and training combined with her hundreds of documented responses to critical incidents, she is one of the lead instructors for the “Command” portion of the training curriculum and provides crucial input and feedback on course development
– She holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from UNF and a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Public Administration. She is also a graduate of the FBI Law Enforcement Executives training and a member of the Florida Police Chief’s Association.
Sheriff Cook has earned numerous awards for her service, including:
– Law Enforcement Legacy Leader Award
– Contributing Writer/Award Winner – “Police Director’s Consortium”
– Chad Reed First Responder Award for Hurricane preparedness and response
– 6 Pillars of Character Award Winner
-2021 Best of Clay – Law Enforcement Officer