After some time away from the Pembroke mayor’s office, Judy Cook hopes to return to it.
Cook served 12 years as mayor, but opted not to seek a fourth term in 2011 in order to travel and spend time with her family.
But Cook admits she has missed being involved in city government, so she is running for mayor against her successor, Mary Warnell, in the Nov. 3 election.
“It’s in my blood,” Cook said. “I miss helping people and serving people. I think I can continue to bring something to the community.”
Cook, 70, is touting the experience she would bring to the position. She points out that her involvement in city government began well before she first was sworn in as mayor in 2000.
Cook began working for the city of Pembroke in 1972 and was promoted to city clerk in 1982. She also served as the city’s personnel administrator, planning and zoning administrator and municipal-court clerk before retiring as an employee and running for mayor.
“My education started way before 12 years (as mayor),” Cook said. “I’ve seen most every situation imaginable. If anybody’s got experience, I’ve got experience — and experience counts.”
Cook is campaigning on a self-described “short and sweet” platform of “improving the quality of life” in Pembroke. The city coined the slogan “Pride in Pembroke” while she was in office.
“I keep going back to ‘Pride in Pembroke,’” she said. “That’s what I tried to build the 12 years that I was here — to have something for everybody to feel proud of, and to make sure that they have a part in accomplishing this.”
As examples of that, Cook referenced the city’s establishment of a clothing bank with donations from the community and Pembroke’s partnership with United Way to provide a local food bank and meals for seniors.
Also, the McCormick family gave funding for the Tommy McCormick Play Park, and the McFadden family donated land for McFadden Place, a 30-apartment senior-living complex in the city.
If she is elected, Cook’s goals include re-establishing the Miller Teen Center, offering a mentoring program for young people and partnering with America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia to provide groceries to low-income seniors and after-school meals for at-risk children. She also supports a suggestion a Pembroke resident gave her to establish a citizens’ police academy.
“I love that word ‘partnering,’” Cook said. “I can’t say enough good things about the people of Pembroke and what they do. They care and they want to be involved.”
The largest project of Cook’s mayoral tenure was the construction of the new wastewater-treatment plant on the outskirts of Pembroke. Grants funded about $3.5 million of the $5 million project, according to Cook, and the city took out loans for the rest.
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue was used to renovate City Hall and build the J. Dixie Harn Community Center and a new city maintenance barn. To save taxpayer money, the city instituted a work detail for detention-center inmates to maintain streets and the city cemetery.
“I’m a fiscal conservative,” Cook said. “I look for that dollar, and I will beg you to come on (and support the city).”
Downtown revitalization was one of Cook’s priorities as mayor, as the city upgraded sidewalks and lighting with a streetscape project and purchased DuBois Square and the old Tos Theater. Memorial Park was created to honor military veterans and local family members with commemorative bricks.
Cook listed new businesses that opened in Pembroke while she was mayor, including St. Joseph’s Health Center and Tremble Funeral Home.
A small shopping center on Highway 280 houses three businesses, with a Dollar General store next to it.
“I love my town,” Cook said. “I love Pembroke.”
Cook pledges, if elected, to be accessible to the people of Pembroke. She said she “always had an open-door policy” as city clerk and as mayor.
“If somebody wanted to come in and talk to me, come on back to my office and sit down,” Cook said. “I love helping people. ‘Problem’ is not in my vocabulary. You might have a concern, you might have an issue, but we don’t have problems.”