Mayor Cook offers advice on making the most of high school


Photo courtesy of Olivia Young

Olivia Young takes a selfie with Mayor Cook during her interview for this article. Young enjoyed the opportunity to get some advice from the mayor.

By Olivia Young

As Mayor John Cook walks into his executive assistant’s office, he is eager to share how he and his associates have shaped the city over the past five years. With unmistakable confidence and his City of Tigard pin on his lapel, his drive is incontrovertible. For as long as he can remember he’s had a passion for politics, his community and keeping the citizens of Tigard safe. When he’s not tweeting and keeping his over 1,300 Twitter followers updated on the happenings of their city, he is serving his community, working as president of the Oregon Mayors Association and meeting with everyone from regular citizens to former state representatives. This may seem impressive, but for Cook it’s second nature; a life of politics has always been on his mind, stemming from spending time with his family as a boy.


“My dad was in city politics for 25 years, so growing up in that, I decided I wanted to do it.” Cook said. His dad, John Cook Sr., has nearly three decades of government experience–from chairman of the park board to mayor himself. Because of his father’s experience, it makes sense that Cook would go to him for advice on all things local government.


Along with his dad, Cook looks to two other government aficionados when seeking counsel; Roy Rogers, the county commissioner, and former mayor Tom Bryan. These two, throughout Cook’s time in the government field, have advised him into making some of the important political decisions that have impacted the city.


“Tom Bryan was on the council for 10 years, [and] went on to become our state representative,” Cook said. “Roy put me on a budget committee in Washington County and I chaired that for 10 years. [They] are the two… I go to when I have any questions… [and] who I’ve always followed in addition to my dad.” Their advice has set Mayor Cook up for much success as he runs the city of Tigard. However, he cannot do this alone. The people around him are extraordinary staffers who keep the city running smoothly.


One is Joanne Bengston, his executive assistant. Throughout her high school years, she mentioned how it took her a while to find her passion. Once she found it government she felt overjoyed; with her job, and learning opportunities presented every day.


“Everybody here does more than just their one thing, and every day here is different. I would say that’s the best part of working for the city and… the mayor. It is a great place to learn about the world we live in. It’s so interesting and fun. I’ve worked for nonprofits, for profits… and by far government is my favorite.”


Along with daily learning opportunities, Mayor Cook has taught Bengston how to not focus on the ‘internet trolls’, as she says, and to focus on what really matters- serving the communities of Tigard.


“He’s taught me how to not be as invested [in the negative things people say]. No matter where you go, there are going to be people who say mean things, but we shouldn’t let it… change [our goals and] what we’re doing. We shouldn’t get sidetracked by these…  things that are usually baseless. He’s been great helping me take my eye off of that and move forward with the mission of serving the public.”


Cook began forming his positive philosophy in high school. Because of his family’s involvement in the Catholic church and the college preparatory program there, Cook attended Central Catholic High School from 1984 to 1987. Cook used his time in high school to begin creating a path of growth with the morals and stamina he needed to take on such positions in government. Now, he has advice for all high school students.“Get involved! Volunteer!” he said. Getting out and trying new things, he said, helped him with his job, and is the main piece of advice he’d give to students wishing to pursue a political career.


“Whether it’s the Tigard Youth Advisory Council, or whether it’s leadership at school…If you want change, you need to get involved. That means… voting, and… volunteering in your community.” He again emphasized how, because of his parent’s involvement in volunteering, it created much ease when it came time to do his part. “[My parents] were in… service groups in the city, and I followed them around… so it was really easy when it was time for me because I’d already done [it]. So many people already knew me because I was involved. I was involved… when I was a child, so when I got older it was easier to continue.”


“Get educated on what’s happening now,” Bengtson added. “and how you can impact whats happening! Pick up a history book…  history books have the luxury of time; people have stepped back and seen [what cities have done], and historians have picked those things apart, and you get to see how many people… have touched something to make the whole- and that in essence is local government.”


Mayor John Cook’s family environment, schooling, and love for government all come together to create the mayor of Tigard. With his staff and his passion for his work, there is no denying that Cook loves this city, and wants to do what he can to make it safer and greater for every citizen; big, or small.