Appointed councilman, Cook vows to listen

— The Happenings in the town of Berne NY,

Jim Cook is sworn in at the Berne Town Board meeting on Feb. 8. Cook will replace Councilman Wayne Emory, who resigned earlier this year.

BERNE — A quarter of a century ago, Jim Cook served on the committee that drafted Berne’s first comprehensive plan. This month, he was appointed to the town board.

He wants to bring more businesses to the town and he stressed his desire to be open with the public.

“I really want folks to call me...if they think something’s going on,” Cook told The Enterprise. “That’s the main part of the job.”

Cook was appointed on Feb. 8 to fill the seat of Councilman Wayne Emory, who had resigned effectively on Jan. 31.

“Wayne didn’t want the last year to be someone who isn’t here the whole time,” said Supervisor Kevin Crosier.

Emory was to serve a term ending on Dec. 31, 2018. He could not be reached for comment.

Crosier praised Cook as someone who had worked on the town’s comprehensive plan and is a Vietnam veteran.

Cook has lived in Berne for about 35 years. He told The Enterprise that he had served for four years on the committee, chaired by Robert Mohr, that drafted the town's original 1992 comprehensive plan. More recently, Cook chaired, for three-and-a--half years, the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, which updated the original plan.

His time on the committee gave him the opportunity to research subjects such as hydraulic fracturing and renewable energy.

Cook, a member of the town’s Democratic Committee, said there had been a discussion of who could take Emory’s place at one of the meetings. Emory himself is an enrolled Democrat, as are the other town board members.

“Next thing I knew, they were talking about me,” said Cook, “And I said, ‘OK.’”

Cook said he hasn’t made a decision of whether he will run for office yet, but he added that he has experience with campaigning for previous candidates, petitioning, and reaching out to local youth.

He said he would like to work toward local self-improvement, building on his past experiences and present ones. He would like to move forward with projects at Switzkill Farm, he said.

“A successful Switzkill Farm will certainly reflect on Berne’s ability,” he said.

He also spoke of addressing issues such as a lack of businesses and activities in town.

“There are not a lot of businesses in Berne,” he said. “There are needs for jobs and activities.”

He said Berne suffers from a geographic location that is closed off from other areas. Still, he said, issues such as poverty are farther-reaching than the town.

“It is obviously a state and national issue as well,” he said.

He said earlier that there are some things the town board cannot speak about immediately, and that meetings do not always allow time to have an extensive public discussion, adding that that is why residents can reach out to board members and shouldn’t have to obtain information through Freedom of Information Law requests.

“I want to reach out to folks,” he said. “I want them to feel comfortable talking to me.”

Cook grew up in Albany. He joined the United States Army and served from 1967 until 1968 during the Vietnam War. He described that part of his life as a separate phase, “Like high school, only more dramatic,” he said.

He enrolled in courses at the University at Albany, but later decided it wasn’t for him. He later studied computer programming at a small school where he learned programs such as Fortran and Cobalt. He ended up repairing circuit boards, he said. He is retired from that work now but he and his wife run an antiques business.

Cook said he is interested in both philosophy and history, and enjoys pointing out the parallels of the modern world and the past.

Corrected on Feb. 17, 2017: This story originally said that Jim Cook had chaired the committee that developed Berne's first comprehensive plan in 1992; that committee was actually chaired by Robert Mohr. Cook chaired the committee that more recently revised the 1992 master plan.

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