By Martie Thompson
Longtime St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Chuck Mulligan has recently retired after a 33-year career with the agency — and he is enjoying his new found free time. “There’s always a new project,” he said. “But I am loving spending more time with my wife and daughter.” While most people in the community know Mulligan through his two decades as liaison with the media, prior to holding this position he served in a number of different roles within the SJSO, including patrol officer, a diver in the marine unit, a motorcycle cop in the traffic division, and a member of the SWAT team. Mulligan has been married to his wife, Terri Arnold, for 22 years and they share a daughter, Jenna, a collegiate gymnast at the University of Michigan.
Q: Can you tell us about your family background?
A: On both my mother’s and my father’s side, our family history in St. Augustine goes back to before the fort was even built. My mother’s family were Minorcans who helped settle St. Augustine and my father’s family were potato farmers. St. Augustine was a phenomenal place to grow up. We lived a block from the St. Augustine Lighthouse and I spent my days fishing and riding my bike all over downtown St. Augustine.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: We lived in St. Augustine, but took a break when I was in late elementary school/middle school in the mid-1970s. My father had a contract offer to go work in Iran and so my younger brother and I went there with him and my mother. We went to an American school there, but lived among the general population. I learned a lot about Middle Eastern culture and met many wonderful people. We lived through the Iranian Revolution and were eventually evacuated in 1979 about a month prior to the American hostage crisis. We came back to St. Augustine and I eventually graduated from St. Augustine High School.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: We first met in the 1980s when I went to St. Augustine Beach and parked next to her car. She was home from college on summer break and I asked her out. We dated through the summer, but then she went back to college. Almost 10 years to the day later, a friend of mine who was dating a friend of hers asked me to come and hang out and Terri was there. We were surprised to see each other after so many years. By this time, she was back home in Fruit Cove helping her family run the family business and I was with the sheriff’s office. We’ve been together ever since.
Q: How did you become a sheriff’s deputy?
A: When I graduated from high school, I started my own car detailing business. It was successful, but I felt unfulfilled. Through family, I met David Shoar, then with the St. Augustine Police Department and he invited me to ride along with a deputy and see if I liked it. I did. On the very first ride, we did something to help people. I joined the police academy and upon graduation as a 20 year old, wanted to work locally. Then-Sheriff Neil Perry put me in the reserve program to prove myself and I worked for no pay until I was finally hired full time in 1988. The most fun of all my positions within the SJSO was when I was a traffic cop. I had the freedom of being able to create work for myself; I was not just writing tickets, but was able to help people. I also enjoyed my time on the SWAT team.
Q: What are your plans post-retirement?
A: I actually first retired a few years ago after 30 years in full time law enforcement, most recently as the media liaison. Sheriff Shoar asked me to stay on a contract basis until he retired three years later and so I did. Now I’m turning the page. I’m entertaining some very interesting offers for the future, but I’m in no hurry. I’m enjoying being unplugged; it’s the right thing for me in my life right now. I’m focusing on spending time with my wife and I’m happy to finally be able to spend time with my daughter. She is a competitive gymnast now at the University of Michigan and we have been able to go to many of the meets. The team is now ranked number two in the nation and we are headed to the national championship in late April.
Photo courtesy Chuck Mulligan
Chuck Mulligan during a recent family trip to Ireland. The castle ruins were in the territory where the Mulligans (O’Maoligains) were chieftains over several baronies in County Donegal (Northwest Ireland).