Mayor Alexander Cooke Fights For the Soul of Juno Beach

Juno Beach Mayor Alexander Cooke is a rare find in the often transactional world of politics. A local leader seeking his third term in office, Cooke eschews traditional campaign finance. He refuses all donations, gifts, and even endorsements of his candidacy. As Mayor, he doesn’t even accept a salary.

“I’m truly independent,” Cooke says very matter-of-factly.

“I don’t accept endorsements when people offer, because I don’t want any situation where people think they have control over me. Like saying, ‘I endorsed you so you owe me this vote.’ No, I don’t. I don’t operate that way. I say, I appreciate the thought, but I’m not gonna use your endorsement.”

After moving from California with his wife and first son, Cooke put down his roots in Juno Beach nearly seven years ago. He speaks glowingly about the “eclectic” charm of the old-school beach town and its “small community” feel. Now a father of two, Cooke says he was partly motivated to public service to preserve that small town community for his kids.

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In 2022, Cooke was elected to the town council. One year later, the residents of Juno Beach elevated him to Mayor.

Having worked a lengthy career in finance, Cooke’s affinity for numbers is evident in his leadership style. After acquiring two years of experience on the town council, he has refined his decision-making to a science.

“Keeping the character [of Juno] is keeping the small community where everybody walks around, and where the police officers and residents all say hi to each other. You know, that still goes on in Juno Beach, and a lot of that is based on the community and small town feel. And that really comes down to controlling rampant development as much as possible.”

Less than 4,000 residents occupy the 1.8 square miles of Juno Beach— 45 percent of which are preserved lands. Cooke says overdevelopment poses a considerable risk to the town’s character. “We desperately do not want to turn into Singer Island or Fort Lauderdale or anything like that,” he explains. “We want to stay a small, close community where everybody is friendly with each other.”

After becoming Mayor last year, Cooke immediately set out to revise the zoning code of Juno Beach and reimplement the “80-20 rule.” The new code, he explains, requires developers to contribute 20 percent commercial development in exchange for 80 percent residential. The previous code followed a “95-5 rule.”

“It sounds a little complicated, but it makes sense when you look at it. I’m just trying to keep us from winding up as a bedroom community and losing all the small restaurants and small businesses that we have by allowing massive condominium builds […] that’s how you get places like Singer Island or Fort Lauderdale, where all of a sudden the buildings block the sun out.”

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However, not all members of the Juno Beach town council agree with Cooke’s approach. His re-election bid faces a challenge from Vice Mayor Peggy Wheeler. Asked about what sets him apart from his competition, Cooke stressed his campaign’s financial independence and freedom from special interest, in part due to his ability to self-fund.

Cooke notably is the only Juno Beach town council member to hold a private sector job in addition to his public work. When he isn’t overseeing Juno, Cooke heads his financial firm based out of Palm Beach Gardens. Interestingly, he takes a similar approach to both jobs. “My firm is an investment advisory firm, which means we’re bound to true fiduciary duty. The client always comes first, no matter what. I operate the same way with the town. […] I’m looking to protect the town and its residents purely.”

That outlook helped Cooke secure a $500,000 public benefit from the Caretta condo build—the largest public benefit concession in town history. It also led him to create Juno Beach’s first Audit Committee, allowing residents to hold a board seat to oversee the use of town funds.

“All I get out of it is the hope that my kids grow up in a great place too. And that in my view is the best interest of all. Because if my kids are growing up in a great place, that means everyone’s getting a great place and the next generation’s getting a great place.”

The Juno Beach Mayoral election is scheduled for March 19. To learn more about Alexander Cooke’s campaign, visit his website.

Other stories you may want to read:

John R. Smith: Taxes Are Choking Palm Beach County Taxpayers

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