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2024 Election

Eric Cooley Changes Mind, Will Run for Re-Election to Flagler Beach Commission

ⓒ AskFlagler

FLAGLER BEACH – In a surprising reversal of previous statements, Flagler Beach City Commission Chair Eric Cooley will run for a third term in office. Cooley has maintained for months that he was not planning another run, but ultimately decided to seek another three years on the City Commission.

Cooley will face only Bob Cunningham III as the field currently stands, thanks to the decision of Doug ‘Bruno’ O’Connor to withdraw abruptly in the middle of his campaign. Cooley said in a statement that it was neither this development nor the prospect of an unchallenged Cunningham that led to his decision.

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I think right at this moment we need more experience to see things through,” Cooley said. “We cant afford to be changing direction especially with a new city manager.” For a short statement, Cooley references a high volume of recent developments: the ongoing construction of the Compass Hotel and its impacts, the plan to renourish the beach sand over several years, and the upcoming reconstruction of the city’s fishing pier.

He also references the recent hiring of Dale Martin to replace predecessor William Whitson; it was Cooley more than any other commissioner who held Whitson’s feet to the flame in 2022 over multiple perceived shortcomings and catalyzed his firing. Martin was widely embraced by the current City Commission, and has so far yielded few complaints over his job performance.

If re-elected, Cooley will be one of a few long-standing leaders in Flagler Beach’s government. Fellow Commissioner Jane Mealy is one the county’s longest-running elected officials, Police Chief Matt Doughney and Fire Chief Bobby Pace have both been on the job for a decade, City Clerk Penny Overstreet has streamlined administrative functions for a comparable tenure, and Vice Chair Rick Belhumeur has been a commissioner for seven years.

“Our city is facing critical years ahead with the largest projects seen in decades, new city management, and future decisions to be made that will will have significant impact on the character of our surroundings,” Cooley said on Facebook after filing. “Now is the time to continue leading the city thru what will indeed be challenges and finish many of the initatives I have either started or was part of since the beginning. Now is not the time to change direction.”

When not serving on the City Commission, Cooley owns and manages the 7-Eleven convenience store on SR-A1A, located just south of Veterans Park. He also organizes the Hang 8 Dog Surfing competition along with his partner, Mayor Suzie Johnston. Despite Cooley’s decision to seek another term, Johnston is still poised to leave office after the city elections in March.

“Flagler Beach needs experience and knowledge on the Dias with all the large projects planned and currently underway,” Johnston posted to Facebook after Cooley’s announcement. “Eric has proven to be budget conservative for our residents and will hold the City accountable for all budgeted items.”

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

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