Jeff Cook: Guam’s first First Gentleman
2018 elections throughout the U.S. revealed that the voters are ready for a change from patriarchy. Many public office positions have been filled by women and voters have sent to Adelup Guam’s first female governor, Lou Leon Guerrero, and first LGBT lt. governor, Josh Tenorio.
As Leon Guerrero assumes office, she is bringing along another Guam’s first: “First Gentleman” Jeffrey Cook. With a male spouse in Adelup, many people are wondering what that would look like and what Cook’s role would be.
While nobody has been accorded the "first gentleman" designation as a husband of a U.S. president, there are many precedents in other countries such Britain, Germany, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Taiwan. The Republic of Marshall Island has First Gentleman Tommy Kijiner, husband of Hilda Heine, who was elected president in 2016.
At least 27 states and territories in the United States have had their first gentlemen, starting in 1925 with James E. Ferguson, a former governor of Texas who was forced from office due to corruption charges, and whose wife Miriam A. Ferguson later won the office. Puerto Rico had First Gentleman Ramón Cantero Frau,whose wife Sila Maria Calderon was the territory’s governor from 2001 to 2005.
At least 27 states and territories in the United States have had their first gentlemen, starting in 1925 with James E. Ferguson, a former governor of Texas who was forced from office due to corruption charges, and whose wife Miriam A. Ferguson later won the office. Puerto Rico had First Gentleman Ramón Cantero Frau, whose wife Sila Maria Calderon was the territory’s governor from 2001 to 2005.
On Guam, no one could have been more pleased with the new Democratic team in Adelup than Cook, a lawyer with Cunliffe & Cook Law Offices. He has been a behind-the-scene supporter of his governor-wife, a former senator and president of the Bank of Guam.
“I knew my wife had a very big chance of winning. The campaign was really a chance to meet lots of people,” Cook said. “Lou and Josh have very strong supporters—not just the people working the campaign, but just a lot of people who admire them,” he said. “It was fun to get to know those good people. I was conjunctionally involved with the campaign. I would go to the meetings and things in the evening.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ca., Cook earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1970 and attended law school at the University of San Fernando Valley College of Law, J.D. in 1976. He met Leon Guerrero in 1973, when she was studying at California State University. Three years later, they got married in Tustin, Ca.
Cook’s first admission was in 1977.
What will be Cook’s role in the administration? “I’m interested in promoting recycling,” he said. “A lot of work needs to be done on our island to improve the environment. More people need to understand the importance of recycling. I intend to work with various organizations and individuals in order to push educating our island, starting from the youth in the schools. I think people believe that since we’re living in the tropics, everything degrades quickly so it’s no big deal to throw trash on the roadside. They don’t understand that’s not true about a lot of material, particularly with plastic and metals.”
Although he is still adjusting to being first gentleman, Cook hopes that he can continue on with his life and his career. “I’ve already tried to make it clear that I don’t think I need a security person. I’d like to exercise and walk by myself listening to music. If I can, I’d like to continue to do that and not have some security person around,” Cook said.
Cook and Leon Guerrero have two children Joaquin and Mariana.
“I’ve been married to Lou for so long and I’m used to her activities on island, first as a senator, then president of the Bank of Guam. I’m used to going to functions and being involved in things,” Cook said.
Cook has been involved in the Red Cross here on Guam since 1985 and active with the Guam Football Association for all the soccer games. “I’ll continue to do those things to the best of my abilities. I’m just going to try to go with the flow,” he said.
Another big transition Cook is anxious about is his living situation. “When it comes to living in the Government House versus staying in our current house, as much as possible, I’m going to try to spend time in my personal house. I like my house,” he said.
Despite his new role in the community, the attorney hopes to continue working with his law firm, where he does not expect any special treatment. “I still intend to practice, and I don’t know yet how this’ll affect my practice,” he said. “I’m still who I am, so being first man doesn’t change me. I’ll still do what I do. The judges are still the judges and I have to show my respect to the judges. I have to show my respect to the lawyers. I don’t foresee any major change. How people think they have to treat me, that’s their decision.”
Although he is learning how to be the first gentleman, he is positive that Leon Guerrero and Tenorio will find their flow as Guam’s new leaders and fulfill their promises to the people of Guam. Cook said, “[Lou] and Josh are the ones elected to serve the people. I look forward to doing anything I can to help my wife’s new journey as governor, but they’re the ones doing the work.” Correction: In the print edition and the earlier online version of this story, we reported that Mr. Cook worked at the U.S. District Court of Guam in 1980 and at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit in 1981. Mr. Cook clarified that he did not work for the courts mentioned. "I was admitted to practice before those courts the years mentioned. I did work for superior court of Guam 1980 to 1981," he said. Our sincere apologies.