Cooley ran unopposed for the Flagler Beach City Commission and will replace Commissioner Joy McGrew.
Flagler Beach 7-Eleven owner Eric Cooley sees about 2,000 people walk through the doors of his store, which is located at 408 S. Ocean Shore Blvd., each day. The majority of his customers are Flagler Beach residents.
They sip cups of coffee, gulp down the many different flavor options of Slurpees and munch on snacks. But most importantly, they come to make their voices heard.
“People are pretty quick to tell you when they’re not happy about something,” Cooley said. “If something happens in town, I’m the first one to know because we’re open 24 hours a day. If something happens, we immediately hear about it because they’re in here talking about it.”
Cooley is well known in Flagler Beach. He has been an avid volunteer in the city since he arrived from Chicago nearly four years ago. He participates in the beach cleanups every month and was active in helping the community get back to its feet after the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew and, most recently, Hurricane Irma.
Cooley is also a regular at Flagler Beach City Commission meetings, which he has been attending religiously for the past 3 1/2 years. He was an outspoken proponent of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries.
As a result of his involvement in the meetings, he has had many residents over the last two years tell him he should run for a seat on the commission. And on Jan. 19, their wish came true. Cooley won a seat on the Flagler Beach City Commission. He ran unopposed and replaced Commissioner Joy McGrew.
His decision to run spurred from recognizing a need for residents to be given a voice.
“When people would come into my store, I would notice that the citizens feel a particular way about something, and that message wouldn’t always make it to City Hall,” he said. “Isn’t that the whole point of being a com- missioner: to represent what the people want?”
“If they want me to deliver a message, they can come in and nd me at my store, and I’ll take that message to City Hall.”
Cooley said he looks at being a commissioner as an extension of his volunteer work.
“It’s definitely not for the pay,” said Cooley, who will be earning $7,000 per year as a commissioner. “It’s another way for me to give back to the community.”
Cooley, who is a former executive at an auto parts corporation in Chicago, said his business experience and logical approach to solving problems will aid him in his time as a commissioner.
“I’m not a political guy,” he said. “But I’m used to the meeting format. I stick to facts, and I don’t get really emotional.”
For those in the community who take issue with how something is being done, Cooley said they’ll know where to find him.
“If they want me to deliver a message, they can come in and find me at my store, and I’ll take that message to City Hall,” he said.
Email Ray Boone at [email protected].