Cooley wants industry; council seat

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 19, 2004

When he retired as Linden’s Alfa Insurance agent in 2002, friends and family had a strong notion Jack Cooley would return to his native Talladega.

If the numbers add up right in August, Cooley won’t leave Demopolis for another four years. Friday, he publicly announced his intentions to seek the District 5 seat on the Demopolis City Council.

“I don’t think there’s a better small city than Demopolis,” Cooley said. “Patsy and I adore Demopolis, and I believe we’re at the verge of busting at the seams with growth.”

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Mike Baker, who currently represents District 5 on the council, said Friday that he has not yet firmly decided whether he’ll seek another term.

As the only announced candidate for the seat, Cooley said he has no platform. “I’ve just got one plank.”

That plank is a vision for realizing the enormous growth Cooley believes will happen in Demopolis. But in order to move the city forward, Cooley said there must be an absolute commitment in the near future.

“They only way we can grow is if Demopolis and the Chamber of Commerce are willing to make a financial investment in the city,” he said. “Every town wants industry to come, but how many spin-offs do we have from Mercedes or from Hyundai?”

The obvious answer — none — concerns Cooley.

“The problem is that we cannot wait until the ground is broken for an industry to come,” he said. “You have to go out and get them. You have to make an investment.”

In terms of specific investments, Cooley has one idea.

“We need to spend the money on research,” he said. “Figure out what works in other places. Sure, I’d love to see the four-lane highway and the interstate, but it’s not just going to happen. You have to bring people here, first.”

As for funding such investments, Cooley believes the city is on strong enough financial footing to begin working toward expansion.

“I don’t think we need to change anything in the way we raise money,” he said. “From what I know, our revenue is fine.”

Cooley, who spent 10 years as an agent with Alfa in Linden, hasn’t personally served in public office before. However, his former company is considered one of the most powerful political forces in the state. Through that, Cooley believes he has the background to effectively serve in office.

“Alfa has 15 field agents, and when the [Alabama] Legislature is not in session, those agents are out there talking to people,” he said. “They’re allowing field farmers to communicate their desires and wishes.”

But when the state legislature begins its annual session, Cooley believes Alfa builds political strength through its persistence in Montgomery.

“During the session, they’re in the hallways,” he said. “They communicate [with legislators] and they make personal contacts.”

That, Cooley believes, is what must happen for Demopolis to realize its growth potential.

“We need to be in Montgomery and Washington, D.C.,” he said.

If elected, Cooley would represent a large area of west Demopolis. However, he wouldn’t view election as a mandate to serve a select group of citizens.

“I believe the entire council should work for everyone in the city,” he said. “Yes, I’ll represent the people of my district, but there’s no other way to do it than for all of us to work together.”

Cooley, who said he has great respect for the job Baker has done in the District 5 seat, indicated there was no personal motive for challenging a potential incumbent candidate.

“Mike has represented the people well in a forthright method,” Cooley said. “I’m not running against Mike Baker. I’m running for the position.”

Cooley and his wife, Patsy, have five children and 11 grandchildren.