Flagler Beach

Eric Cooley Defeats Bob Cunningham for Third Flagler Beach City Commission Term


FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. - The voters of Flagler Beach have chosen to keep Eric Cooley on the City Commission, re-electing him to three more years in Tuesday's election. Cooley defeated Bob Cunningham, his only challenger. It's the second time in a row Cooley has won his race against one lone opponent. This, after he was initially elected uncontested.

Eric Cooley received 820 votes, good for a 55.6% majority. Bob Cunningham received 654, bringing in 44.4%. For Cooley, it was an increase from his 54.4% win in 2021, while his first win in 2018 was uncontested. Cunningham put up 15.2% in his 2023 campaign, placing fourth out of five candidates.

Cooley has served as Chair of the City Commission over the last year, overseeing one of the busier seasons in Flagler Beach's recent history. All at once the city has juggled the process of rebuilding its pier, having its beach sand re-nourished, and the construction of a divisive three-story hotel in the heart of town. Not to mention the struggle to re-establish a yearly traditional of holiday fireworks and ensure long-term viability for the city's First Friday gatherings. The City Commission also vetted and hired City Manager Dale Martin in the midst of this, thrusting him into the heart of it all.

"This particular term for me over the next three years is going to be the term of all the big projects getting finished," Cooley said. "There can't be anything better than, over the next three years, checking everything off."

Bob Cunningham has now lost two straight City Commission elections, having come up short in last year’s two-way race as well. He got past a bout of pneumonia during the campaign, and braved frigid windy conditions on SR-A1A waving signs on Election Day. Cunningham, an Army veteran, has been a frequent presence at meetings often criticizing the transparency practices of the commissioners.

He did not participate in the local news outlet AskFlagler’s candidate interview series (the only one conducted by a Flagler news outlet this cycle), saying he missed out on reminder messages as the deadline approached. Both Cooley and Mayor-elect Patti King, the city’s other two 2024 candidates, completed the interview. Cunningham has been contacted for comment, and any response he provides will be added to this article.

Mayor Suzie Johnston, who will soon turn the job over to Patti King.
Mayor Suzie Johnston, who will soon turn the job over to Patti King.

With the Commission's voting membership remaining the same this election, Cooley remains the third-most senior commissioner, behind Jane Mealy and Rick Belhumeur. He's now in office until 2027, which would put him at a nine-year tenure. Cooley nearly didn't run for re-election this time around, considering a year away from the dais or a run for a different office. "I wasn't planning on running," Cooley added. "I was gonna take some time off." He decided to see through initiatives that began in his first six years.

He will be sworn in alongside Flagler Beach's new mayor, Patti King. Like in Cooley's first election, King won her seat uncontested and thus did not appear on the ballot. She'll take the post over from Suzie Johnston, who served one term in office before deciding to step down. As Cooley's domestic partner Johnston often endured remarks about the ethics of the pair's mutual public service, a critique that is now moot whether it was ever founded or not.