The seven members of the Kent City Council gave Mayor Suzette Cooke a standing ovation after her final council meeting on Tuesday night for her 12 years of service.
“I’m just glad I made it through the meeting without losing it,” Cooke said as she fought back tears.
Prior to the meeting, the council threw a farewell reception at City Hall for Cooke, who decided not to seek a fourth, four-year term. Her term ends Dec. 31.
“Mayor Cooke has made City Hall and the mayor accessible,” said Councilwoman Dana Ralph, elected by voters to replace Cooke. “You watch her out in the community and everybody comes up and says hi and there’s a hug, and it’s little kids all the way up to adults. … This community has come together in a way that we have never seen over the last 12 years – whether it be those of us that have been here all of our lives or our newest residents. They feel like they have a place and somebody to hear them. They’re listened to. They come with a concern and you address it. You take action.”
Several other friends, co-workers and council members also spoke highly of Cooke, who then said a few words before cake was served.
“I wanted to sincerely thank you for showing up tonight,” Cooke said. “I did throw a party once and nobody came. That never leaves you when that happens.”
Cooke said she always tried to stay in touch with people.
“The most important thing as an elected official – no matter what the level – is to always be with the people,” she said. “I take pride in saying I spend very little time in my office because I believe in being where you are. That’s where I can see and hear from your area and your comfort zone.”
She also had a couple of words for Mayor-elect Ralph.
“Good luck,” Cooke said.