POSTED: Monday, November 12, 2012 - 11:29pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 9:40am
El Paso, TX — “I'm very confident that when my tenure is up that we'll have left the city in better shape than we found it," said Mayor of El Paso John Cook.
Cook has been the face of the community for almost 8 years now and with his term up in May, where does that leave El Paso?
"We had the leadership to say if you're an El Pasoan, it doesn't matter if you're gay, it doesn't matter if you're straight, you will get equal rights," said City Representative Steve Ortega.
It's no secret Mayor Cook has blazed new ground. Mayor Cook's decision to extend healthcare benefits to city employees' domestic partners, gay or not, made him and two other city council members the target of a recall election that attracted national attention.
"I was upset that people were violating the law and I thought they needed to be called to task on that.These folks did violate the state law,” said Cook.
So he filed a lawsuit and in the end, his administration won.
"I was able to empower others to become successful and to join the entire community together," said Cook.
He says empowering others was they key in getting the Quality of Life bonds passed, that included funding for the future baseball stadium,another milestone during the mayor's tenure.
"With nearly half a million dollar sticker price that passed with over 70% of the voters going out and supporting it. That speaks volumes about El Paso's confidence in itself and their confidence in the political leadership of the city. All great cities have a great downtown, all great cities have great parks and open space. I hope this continues in the next administration is the focus on transportation," said Cook.
Richard Dayoub, the CEO of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce has worked side by side with the mayor on multiple efforts.
"The leadership in the mayor's position was critical to the process (bonds). They made that commitment to this community to say yes we believe in ourselves and yes we're gonna make this a better place," said Dayoub.
He says though the mayor's nearly eight years were impressive, but he did notice something:
"I have the most respect for John Cook. I think he's done an exceptional job as our mayor. I think his single fault is that he strives sometimes too hard to make everybody happy," said Dayoub.
Looking back, Mayor Cook says he could have been less lenient at times.
"I probably should get angrier more often than I do. That's just my nature, its hard to go out of your character and become the big meanie when you do need a big meanie," said Cook.
Cook says its not about getting credit for accomplishments but having accomplishments to your credit. The quality of life bonds are proof that El Paso is on its way to great progress.
"We've got the authorization of the bonds, we've got the ballpark, we've got the trolley. We've got all these great things coming and it's gonna be very important that along the way, we do everything very well. That there's someone making sure it gets done with the expectations the community had when they went and voted yes for those propositions," said City Representative Susie Byrd.
But who will the next mayor be and what will it take?
"Someone who believes in the vision that we've been pursuing for the last almost 8 years. That vision was about economic development,” said Cook.
Richard Dayoub weighed in with a few characteristics.
"High ethical standards, impeccable ethical standards, honesty, integrity, commitment to the community," said Dayoub.
Newly elected congressman Beto O'Rourke commented as well.
"We need somebody who's got vision, who is ambitious for this community, who has the tenacity to see it through. Who can build coalitions around projects and goals," said O'Rourke.
City Council Representative Steve Ortega, whose been a part of Mayor Cook's adminstration, has already thrown his hat in the mayoral race.
"I believe in El Paso. I want to work with you to make sure this community is the best that it can be and I look forward to the next 4 years of renaissance here in El Paso," said Ortega.
Ortega's already got some prominent figures in El Paso as supporters that say its undeniable that El Paso is moving in a very positive direction.
One supporter in particular, the oldest former mayor in El Paso, Ralph Seitsinger says it takes a certain kind of person to lead El Pasoservice above self..
"You have to be ready to go to work. I've never worked harder and made less money in my life," said Seitsinger.
“This is a critical election because we have come too far, we have done too much in this decade. We have seen the collaboration between private sector and the public sector in a way we have never seen before in our lifetime," said County Judge Veronica Escobar.
Regardless of who is voted into office, Mayor John Cook trusts his successor will continue his legacy.
"The locomotive is still running.Got a full head of steam and the next administration can take it down the track to success," said Cook.