Judy Cook loves Pembroke.
And if there is one thing she can say about her time as mayor for the North Bryan town, it is the importance of the people and being passionate about the community.
Monday will mark the end of an era for Cook, who has served more than a decade as mayor, and was also the city’s first woman mayor — something she said was not originally on the horizon for her.
Cook said she was cutting grass on a July afternoon in 1999 when she was approached by three gentlemen who she first thought were insurance salesmen. But they were actually prominent community businessmen who wanted her to run for mayor.
“They said they wanted somebody with government experience, and God knows I had government experience,” Cook said.
Cook began her career in city government in the mid 1970s working in the city clerk’s office for J. Dixie Harn. After Harn retired, she took over as the city clerk until 1994 when she decided to take early retirement.
As an employee of the city for some time, Cook said she learned many things from the mayors she worked with and was grateful for that knowledge during her three terms in office.
“If there is nothing else that Mr. Harn instilled in me it was the love of Pembroke, and he preached love of Pembroke all the time,” she said.
She also said Harn taught her the importance of “knowing your city.”
“I can read a water meter, turn water off and on — I can do most anything,” she said.
Cook said former mayor Harry Owens was very business oriented, and former mayor Woodrow Pickett had a military background and taught her SOP, or standard operating procedure, she said.
Former mayor Gene Cowart taught her the importance of knowing the background information on most everything.
“Basically, know the answer before you asked the question,” Cook said of Cowart.
And former mayor Ross Kelley, who she only worked with for a few months, was very “laid back,” she said.
“He taught me the sun will come up tomorrow, so don’t stress,” she said.
And of all the skills she learned from working with those mayors, Cook said she couldn’t pick just one that was the most useful during her time in office.
“It’s probably a combination of all of the above,” she said. “I worked with them and for them, and I could see what would work and what wouldn’t work. I was very fortunate.”
Read more in the Jan. 7 edition of the News.