Candidate for governor might have been your neighbor | ParkRecord.com

Candidate for governor might have been your neighbor

Jay Hamburger The Park Record

Longtime Parkites might recognize one of the people seeking the governor’s mansion this year: he might have been their neighbor.

Peter Cooke will seek the Democratic nomination for governor to challenge the incumbent Republican, Gary Herbert. He plans to file the paperwork next week. It is not clear whether he will face a challenge from within the Democratic Party. Cooke, who is 63 years old and lives in Salt Lake City, resided in Park Meadows for 11 years ending in the late 1990s.

People who followed Park City’s growth discussions in the 1990s might recall Cooke’s role as a housing advocate and a developer of work force housing in the city. He was instrumental in both Aspen Villas and Silver Meadows, two prominent work force projects built in Park City. Cooke Drive, a small Prospector street where some of the work force housing is situated, is named in his honor.

"At that point in time, there wasn’t a place for working people," Cooke said, noting that housing options were needed for police officers, teachers, municipal workers and people who worked in the private sector, including the restaurant industry.

Aspen Villas was an especially ambitious work force project of the era. Cooke has not been as visible a figure in Park City in the years since, but he said he still has close ties to the community. City Hall since that time has been aggressive in work force housing issues, building units on its own and assisting others with the work.

Cooke is a retired major general in the United States Army Reserve with a varied professional background. He developed work force housing like the projects in Park City and he worked in economic development circles, including in Salt Lake City and on a statewide basis.

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Cooke touts his background outside government work, saying he is not a career politician. He said he supports term limits on state-level elected officials in Utah, including a limit of two four-year terms for governors.

The economy will be a key plank in Cooke’s platform, saying that state leaders have not successfully crafted ideas to spur business.

"Our state does not have an economic development plan, a job creation plan," Cooke said.

He said tourism, critical to the Park City-area economy, is important to him as well, saying that he played a role in the early days of the film festival that would later be known as the Sundance Film Festival.

Cooke said he is following the discussions about SkiLink, an idea to connect Canyons and Solitude to allow skiers and snowboarders access to both resorts. He said he needs to learn more about the idea and its impacts before deciding whether he supports or opposes SkiLink.

Cooke, meanwhile, said he would form a task force if he is elected to study the state’s education system and the demographics of school districts. He said Utahns must decide what sort of priority education is to the state. Cooke said education funding is a problem that has wide impacts, such as on the creation of jobs.

"I don’t think Utah realizes how bad the situation is," he said.

Cooke plans to appear at a Democratic caucus meeting at Park City High School on Tuesday to deliver a stump speech. The caucus starts at 7 p.m.

Delegates will be chosen for both the Summit County and state Democratic conventions during the Tuesday gathering. Delegate counts are important to the candidates since they could avoid a primary election if they secure enough delegates to the conventions.

Caucus meetings are also scheduled on Tuesday at South Summit High School and North Summit Middle School.