Deputy Jason Cook of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office is making an impact as the school resource officer at McDowell High. That’s what earned him the title of 2016’s Officer of the Year.

Sheriff Dudley Greene presented Cook with the award at the departmental Christmas dinner on Thursday, Dec. 15.

“Jason is an all-around good employee,” said Greene. “He has served in many capacities during his time at the Sheriff’s Office, including in the jail, on night shift patrol and, currently, as a school resource officer at McDowell High. This year, he has arrested 19 students in 10 separate drug cases. That shows he’s making an impact where it needs to be made. I’ve also been told by someone who frequently visits the high school that Jason is seen and is developing a report with those students. This past summer, when he wasn’t at the school, he helped us out with various tasks, like transports. He does what he’s asked to do and never complains.”

Cook completed basic law enforcement training at McDowell Technical Community College in May 2009 and began working for the Sheriff’s Office the following December. He started his career as the utility officer in the jail, doing jobs there, as well as manning the metal detector at the courthouse. He was later transferred to night shift patrol until he got his current role as SRO at McDowell High in October 2015, a move he said he was hesitant to take but has never regretted.

“I feel like, dealing with young people, I can have more of an impact,” he stated. “There’s enough negative in this world, and I feel like I can offer something positive. Hopefully, I can be a role model.”

He also coordinates the Sheriff’s Office Explorer post, which offers young adults interested in a career in law enforcement hands-on education, training and experience in the field.

Cook said he wants to send a message to students that he’s there to help, but there are also consequences to their actions.

“I wish there were no drugs (at the school), but I think I might be making a dent in it here,” he said. “I don’t focus just on drugs. I also deal with bullying, threat, safety and criminal issues.”

Cook lives in Old Fort, and said, in his spare time, he loves being with his family, which includes wife, Heather; 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa; and 16-year-old stepson, Logan.