Monday evening Flagler Beach business owner Eric Cooley announced he’d run for the City Commission seat held by Joy McGrew. Early Tuesday morning, McGrew, the most forthright and colorful member of the commission, made it official: she would not seek to run again, ending nearly 12 years as a commissioner and all but endorsing Cooley as her successor.
“I’m very happy for him,” McGrew said in a dawn interview. “As for me, I’m not going to run again. Lots of reasons but probably mainly the biggest reason is I knew there’d come a time for what I consider the next generation, the next business owners, the next families—I don’t consider myself old but I consider myself having been here a long time.” It is, she said, time for the next generation to stepo up while she herself takes up more leisurely pleasures she’s had to put on hold since her election to the commission in 2006.
“Eric has truly been one of those people in the community who has definitely stepped up and taken an active role in almost every facet of Flagler Beach,” McGrew, 59, said of Colley, who has owned the 7-Eleven on A1A in Flagler Beach for just over three years, and is a member of three city advisory panels. “He has immersed himself deeply enough in what we’ve done on a city basis by coming to every meeting, county meetings, getting on committees, he’s dedicated himself and knows what he’s getting into. I think he’s going to be a good candidate and if he runs unopposed or if he doesn’t run unopposed and he gets in, he will be a good commissioner.”
A native of the mountains of North Carolina, McGrew had been coming to Flagler Beach since she was a child, once her parents bought property there in 1954 and started spending every Christmas in town. When she was 8 years old, she told her parents that she’d make Flagler Beach her home sooner or later. She did so by 1983, and started getting involved in civic and government groups—the Rotary, the Chamber of C9ommerce, the Parks and Recreations advisory board.
In the middle of the last decade the city commission had devolved into something of a freak show largely through the caustic tenures of Robert Mish, Randy Busch and Rosemary Bates. The three had been parodied in an infamous video underscoring the divisiveness of the commission. All three opted not to run, opening the way to McGrew, Jane Mealy and Linda Provencher, who were elected without opposition.
McGrew was unchallenged in 2008 and was narrowly reelected in 2010 but decided not to run again the following year. She would have had to run again because by then the commission had revamped its election cycles so that no more than two seats at a time would be up for an election, with terms set at three years instead of two. Less than a year later, she wanted back in, and won, if by just 54 votes out of 1,528. She was again unopposed in 2015. As in 2011, she may well decide to hop back in after a period off the commission, and is leaving that door slightly open, but for now she is taking a decided turn away from it.
“Every day is a new day,” McGrew said. “Right now my goal and my dream is to do somethings that I kind of put on hold for a while.”
Qualifying for the March 6 election in Flagler Beach ends the first week of January.