SENNETT — Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould ended his last day in office after 12 years as the county's top law enforcement official with a surprise he said he never saw coming.

Following a formal last sign-off from the county's 911 broadcast system, Gould walked out the doors of the Cayuga County Public Safety Building to a procession of more than three dozen deputies, sheriff's office staff and friends and family standing at attention and saluting.

"Thank you so much," the sheriff could be heard saying again and again as he took the time to give a handshake or a hug to every single person lining the sidewalk.

At the end of the line, Gould returned the salute of his right-hand man, sheriff-elect Det. Lt. Brian Schenck, who will formally be sworn in as the next sheriff on Wednesday.

Gould's wife Sue, nieces and nephews, and even their daughter — Facetiming in over phone from New York City — greeted him as well with an emotional embrace.

"Thank you so much for everything you've done for this department and for me," Gould said as he addressed everyone gathered outside. "Now get inside and get warm!"

The day, which Gould started at 5:30 a.m. to say goodbye to the night shift, had been bittersweet and had gone by fast, almost as fast as the last 50 years of his career as a police officer, he said.

Saying goodbye to all the deputies and office staff, Gould said he considered friends more than employees, was "one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

"There's so many good friends here and it's been such a great working relationship. It was just a great honor, a great, great honor," Gould said.

Schenck said the goodbye was just as hard for him and the deputies as it was for the sheriff, who he called a great leader for both the department and the entire county.

"I think he worked hard to make sure not only the department but the community respected him, because he had a great deal of respect for the department and the community himself," Schenck said. "He worked tirelessly every day to make sure he earned everyone's respect and I think he accomplished his mission."

While it was difficult to say goodbye, Gould said he couldn't have been happier to have the chance to serve as long as he had.

"I've been able to serve my country, my state and my county, there's nothing more that any one can ask, to be able to do that, I'm very, very proud of that and I'm proud of everyone that lives in the county and certainly every one of my deputies," Gould said.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin