RALEIGH — As its 30th anniversary approaches, conservative think tank, the John Locke Foundation, has tapped Amy O. Cooke to be its new CEO as of Jan. 23.
“Amy is a strong, creative leader committed to expanding the John Locke Foundation’s influence and effectiveness — and to expanding freedom in North Carolina,” said John Hood, chair of the John Locke Foundation board of directors, in a press release.
Cooke, who uses the Twitter handle @TheRightAOC, will also have the title of publisher of the foundation’s main publication, Carolina Journal.
“My great, great, great grandmother, for whom I am named, was born and raised in North Carolina, and now I’m bringing our name back to her birthplace,” said Cooke. “I can’t think of a greater honor than to lead the talented staff of one of the most well-respected state-based free-market think tanks in the country.”
Only three others have held the title of CEO, Marc Rotterman, John Hood and Kory Swanson.
Cooke hails from Colorado, where she spent 16 years at the Denver-based Independence Institute, serving as executive vice president and director of its Energy and Environmental Policy Center. She also founded the Coalition of Ratepayers, an advocacy group for small businesses and residential utility customers.
After the 2016 presidential election, Cooke was appointed to President Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Cooke told NSJ that North Carolina has a sort of “economic renaissance” going on.
“I am looking at North Carolina from the outside as major league,” said Cooke, adding that the state is reaping the benefits of officials brave enough to implement policy after decades of research.
“North Carolina has flattened its tax rate. It has, for the most part, voluntarily budgeted to inflation plus population,” Cooke said. “It’s actually a really exciting story and if there was anything that was compelling, it’s that story right there and the fact that I get to tell it.”
Cooke’s husband, John, is a Colorado state senator and a retired Colorado sheriff. She joked about seeing him now and then when he and his friends come to North Carolina to golf. Cooke is also a mother of five — three children of her own and two step-children.
While her children are grown up and her youngest daughter is finishing up her final year at Texas Tech online while being deployed to Kuwait, K-12 educational freedom is still on Cooke’s mind.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of a state that is so forward-thinking on school choice,” said Cooke.
Cooke says school choice options, including public charters and private schools through the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, are making a difference.
Cooke cited the example of a working mother of two who said her family’s life was changed by the Opportunity Scholarship Program and how the program had made their American Dream possible as an immigrant.
“That was her American Dream — her kids’ American dream — was to get an education, go on to college,” said Cooke. “And she talked about working multiple jobs in order to pay for them to get them into schools that were best for them — not best for adults — but best for her kids.”
“And when you hear stories like that, you realize that’s what that’s where policy sort of meets the kitchen table,” said Cooke, who also said the story “gave me goosebumps.”
As she settles in to live in the Tarheel state, Cooke says she looks forward to traveling across the state to talk with newcomers and natives alike about why they call North Carolina home.
“I have the greatest job,” said Cooke, adding that she is passionate about letting newcomers to North Carolina know about the “what and why” about coming here.
“There’s an ‘it’ thing about North Carolina,” Cooke said. “It’s the ‘it place’ to be and what I get to do is traverse the state and connect the dots for folks.”