Mayor David Cook '84 - Management

 

The Township of Cranbury is a picturesque oasis in Middlesex County, tucked into the rural landscape of central New Jersey. Considered the best preserved 19th century village in the area, the small mill town is defined by its authentic architecture, family-run businesses and undisturbed farmland.

When George Washington visited during the American Revolution, he camped out in Cranbury to plan the Battle of Monmouth. When Aaron Burr fled south after a fatal encounter with Alexander Hamilton, he scurried through the town. These days, travelers may stop by on a journey from New York to Philadelphia, as Cranbury sits half-way between the bustling cities.

"People really like to visit us here; the location is unique," said lifelong resident and Mayor David Cook '84, one of 4,000 citizens.

The rural township has been able to survive - even thrive - for centuries due to the unwavering commitment of its residents to preserve the historic character of the little mill town that could. Cook may be a parttime employee in town, but says that his duty to protect Cranbury and the interests of its citizens is a full-time job.

"The job takes up a lot of time these days, largely based on the economy. I have described it as drinking from a fire hose," said Cook, who was elected by Cranbury town committee members in January 2012.

Growing up, Cook never imagined that he would become the Mayor of his hometown. He developed an interest in business at an early age, and excelled in management courses at Curry College in the early '80s. After school, he climbed the corporate ladder at Merrill Lynch where he learned the ins and outs of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. He did not consider applying his business knowledge in the political arena until he discovered that Cranbury was slowly being invaded - by developers.

"Cranbury made a conscious decision to control the amount of development that occurred and to maintain its historical character. When the economy took a downturn, it became harder and harder to find money to preserve that land," said Cook, who wants his two children to enjoy the space as he did growing up.

Years ago, groups of savvy developers from the city caught sight of the untouched Township in central New Jersey and pushed to build upon land that for centuries was protected by farmers and residents. Since the economy was at a low and residents were in need of additional funds, the builders had an edge and remained persistent. Knowing that the Township would not survive a rapid influx of residential sprawl, Cook stepped up.

"New Jersey is the most populated state in the union, per square mile. The infrastructure of Cranbury wouldn't have been able to handle the scale of homes and buildings we saw going up," said Cook.

Under Cook's watch, over 250 acres of open space were preserved for future generations to enjoy.

"We were also able to keep our AAA rating, which means that we can borrow money at the lowest rate," says Cook, who owns his own registered advisory company called Factor Investment Solutions.

When he is not preserving the history of Cranbury, Cook is working to build a bright future for the Township by supporting local businesses and attracting visitors. Family run restaurants, shops, studios and even the town's historic inn rely on passersby to stay business. So, while Mayor Cook is determined to keep developers out, he invites travelers from near and far to stay a while.

"We really do have the charm of a small town; but in forty-five minutes to an hour you are in New York City or in Philadelphia. We are a classic town, without having to work through all the traffic," said Cook.

Without his foundation in business and management, Cook doubts that he would have had the confidence to step up and defend his town as Mayor. In his classes at Curry, he said he learned the importance of logic and truly expanded his horizons. He said that his favorite class focused on the equity market.

"That class really triggered my interest in business, and made me question how you create value in companies to help them grow," said Cook.

"Curry College created a platform for me," said Cook. "The experience helped me to understand that I can really apply my skills in the real world, and make a difference."

 
 
 
 

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