Chairing his first economic development meeting twelve years ago, was an uncomfortable public speaker who sometimes had to be reminded to second a motion or table a bill, according to his own admission.
That certainly wasn't the case Wednesday night.
In a speech that brought tears to some, the now polished six-term lawmaker eloquently said farewell and thank you to a large group at a send-off party given in his honor.
Calling his term-limited run 12 of the most exciting and fulfilling years of his life, Cooper thanked supporters, friends, family, colleagues and legislative aids, while describing last week's transition from office as "sort of tough."
He said his strange feeling was an indication of how much he enjoyed serving.
"It seems like just yesterday that I was sworn in," recalled Cooper. "But at the same time, I literally cannot remember not being a Suffolk County legislator."
The Duke graduate reflected on his legislative tenure as a "great life experience" which he said passed quickly — but not without accomplishment.
His biggest victory in office came in his 2003, he said. In a 10-month fight to ban ephedra, the Cooper-initiated move eventually spread from a county law to federal legislation signed by the Pres. George W. Bush.
"It started right here in Suffolk County," Cooper said proudly in Centerport. "Potentially, thousands of lives were saved by that ban," Cooper said recently to Patch.
Days before leaving behind a legislatutive body which he says works together for the most part, Cooper hinted that his fight for poitical cohesion has paid off.
In a show of the Suffolk County biartisanship he has helped to create as the six-year majority leader, representatives from both sides of the isle turned out to honor their former colleague Wednesday.
Those on hand included current county Majority Leader Duwayne Gregory, Tom Muratore, R-Ronkonkoma, and Bill Lindsey, the Suffolk County Legislature's presiding officer.
"From my perspective he was the best majority leader there ever was," said Lindsey, regarding Cooper.
At the event, the former lawmaker introduced his father, William Cooper, the chairman and CEO of Spectronics Corporation, the Cooper family business based in Westbury.
"He's probably one of the only residents in the 18th district that is thrilled that I'm not in office because I get to work with him full-time," joked Cooper, the Spectronics president.
With more time on his hands, the Lloyd Harbor Democrat said he will serve on the Board of Directors of LISTnet, the Family Service League and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center.
Cooper said he will also be actively involved in Pres. Obama's re-election campaign.
After losing his first attempt at office to longtime district incumbent Steve Hackeling 14 years ago, Cooper was elected by larger margins each election throughout his tenure, a sign of his political popularity and accomplishment.
Elected to office in a close 51 to 49 percent vote 12 years ago, Cooper was honored by his 18th District predecessor Dr. William Spencer, who won in a close race in November to begin his first term.
"I think that if I can just continue to follow his example then I'll be fine," said Spencer Wednesday.
In a sit-down with Patch just days before leaving office, Cooper said he was disappointed that he couldn't do more to bring additional law enforcement resources to Huntington Station. Part of the reason, he explained, was the frustration he had in working with former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
"That prevented us from accomplishing some things," said Cooper.
Newly-elected Suffolk County Commissioner Steve Bellone will embrace new ideas regarding crime, according to Cooper. "Bellone agrees that we need more cops on the street," he said to Patch.
Cooper, who once took more than a year off after college to backpack throughout the world, said he's ready to move on after an enjoyable political run in the legislature.
"It's been a tremendous ride," said Cooper Wednesday. "I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the next chapter and I hoping it will be as exciting and rewarding as the first chapter was."
Cooper has not ruled out another run at politics.