“I’m looking forward to coming to Fort Worth,” David Cooke said today, one day after he was unanimously approved by the City Council to be the next city manager. Cooke will start his new job on June 30.
Earlier today, Cooke signed an offer letter that includes $315,000 in annual salary, $81,600 more than current City Manager Tom Higgins, who is retiring. A City Hall news release said Higgins “will continue in that role until Cooke is ready to take over the position.”
Cooke, 54, is director of business development at Mulkey Engineers and Consultants in Raleigh, N.C. In 2013, he retired from Wake County, N.C., as county manager, a position he had held since 2000.
In a telephone interview today Cooke explained “that I hit the 30-year limit” in public service eligibility. “To continue to be a county or city manager, I knew I’d have to leave” North Carolina. He also served as Wake County deputy county manager from 1996 to 2000. He served the city of Charlotte, N.C., in finance and management positions from 1985 to 1996.
“I knew when I retired I hadn’t decided what was next for me,” Cooke said. “I was willing to look at any number of different things,” including “one of the larger urban cities or counties” outside North Carolina. “I had made a list and the big cities of Texas were on that list,” he said.
An opportunity to interview for city manager in Dallas “came up unexpectedly” in January, he said. Cooke was among the finalists for that position, which ultimately went to an internal candidate.
“I enjoyed the experience and the process” in Dallas, he said, “and then I got the call about Fort Worth,” which was conducting a nationwide search to replace Higgins, who announced his retirement in October.
“I felt very comfortable in the interviews I had with the mayor and the council” in Fort Worth, Cooke said, “I think when it gets down to picking a manager, it has to be a fit with the manager, the council and the mayor. You do the best you can and there is going to be a good fit or there isn’t.”
In the City Hall news release Mayor Betsy Price said, “I’m confident David Cooke is the kind of experienced professional we need to meet our challenges and seize the opportunities before us. We are proud to welcome Mr. Cooke to the Fort Worth family.”