By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 31, 2003 For 12 years, George Cooke II has been the Sullivan County Clerk. The Democratic and Conservative candidate is running yet again for the post and yet again is unopposed.
I love this job, Cooke commented. Sullivan County has been very good to my family. There have only been about seven years since 1909 that a Cooke has not served Sullivan County.
In 1909, Cookes grandfather was the District Attorney. In 1953, his father became a Judge. And in 1988, Cooke himself was named Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. He was subsequently elected Clerk for the first time in 1991.
Cooke, as County Clerk, is the Clerk for the Supreme and County courts. His staff handles all deeds, mortgages, passports, pistol permits, and naturalizations. Cooke is also responsible for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
I like to think the office is not political, Cooke remarked. We treat everyone the same. Their background or party affiliation does not matter. We are equal and fair.
Cooke is proud that his office records information on time and quickly. In other counties, it can take up to six months.
The DMV under his tenure has become more customer-oriented and more efficient, he said. Also, the DMV Van goes to different parts of the county so residents do not have to travel to Monticello. Plus, they do some dealer work with Long Island businesses.
Business is up 10-15 percent overall in the DMV. In the Clerks Office, it is up 30 percent.
We listen to the public, Cooke said. Some of our best ideas come from the public. The DMV idea came from the public. We are here to serve the county.
Cooke mentioned several new ideas and innovations he is working on in both offices. An imaging system is coming next year in the Clerks Office. It would allow a person to type in a name and see the document they need. It could also free up a great deal of storage space, as hard copies would not be needed.
As for DMV, renewing registrations and licenses can be done via the mail or Internet. In fact, all DMV forms will soon be on the Internet.
While Cooke loves his job, he has had opportunities to move up to the state level, which leads to the question of how long Cooke wants to stay County Clerk.
I want to do this until the day I die, stated Cooke. I will take each day at a time. I love my job. I had chances to go higher. Nothing has made me want to leave here yet.
Cooke is the oldest of ten children. On New Years eve, he and his wife, Karen, will be married 37 years.
I love her more today than when I married her, Cooke commented. I am very lucky. I owe her everything.
The couple has three daughters. Kelly is a teacher in Pine Bush. Lauren is an interior designer. Courtney (Eldeman) operates the Homestead Restaurant.