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Civic Pride

Cocking sees drive for improved communities wherever he travels

Trey Cocking

From The Ichabod - Fall 2018

From cafes known for their cookies or blueberry pie to downtown revitalization or art, Trey Cocking enjoys when people show off their community.

“Anytime people have a passion for what they’re doing in their city, you know that city’s going to be successful,” he said. “I get that quite a bit as I go across Kansas.”

Cocking, bs ’02, is the deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities where he advocates on behalf of more than 500 Kansas communities. He grew up in Derby, Kansas, came to Washburn for a criminal justice degree then earned a master of public service administration from Texas A&M University. He was city manager of Atchison, Kansas, for eight years before starting his current position in August 2017.

“I represent our member cities in the capitol and advocate on their behalf,” Cocking said. He spends much of his time in the Kansas Statehouse when the legislature is in session. “We strongly believe the best decisions are made at the local level.”

As a student, Cocking was involved with the Kappa Sigma fraternity and Washburn Student Government Association. He met his wife, Jennifer (Fenton) Cocking, ba ’04, jd ’12, at Washburn, and also built many of his professional relationships at Washburn.

“Washburn opened doors that still help in my career,” he said. “College was 25 percent what I got in the classroom and 75 percent being an adult and creating relationships with each other.”

Carol Vogel, ba ’67, director of equal opportunity until she retired in 2013, worked with several student organizations while Cocking was a student.

“If they wanted to find an enthusiastic leader, they picked Trey,” she said. “He was easy to get along with, even with those with whom he disagreed.”

Cocking remembered Vogel’s words during his commencement.

“She told me, ‘Your diploma may say you graduated in criminal justice, but you really majored in extracurricular activities.’”

This May, the American Council of Young Political Leaders chose Cocking to go to Thailand to compare their forms of government. He met with numerous officials and presented on professional management in government. Thailand underwent a military coup in 2014 and has not yet held elections for new leaders. He was there during the four-year anniversary of the coup.

“It made me appreciate our freedom of speech and our form of government,” he said. “It gave me a true appreciation for what we have in this country because they don’t have it yet.”

With a background in professional management of cities, he is familiar with the steps the United States took to get control into local hands.

“We went through 150 years of revision in this country before we got to professional government in the early 1900s,” he said. “They don’t even truly have democracy yet in Thailand. They need to discover what democracy is before you even try to go in and all the sudden have professional management.”

One day, after a long slate of meetings, he was speaking with some locals at a bar about their lives and families. He realized things weren’t very different halfway around the world.

“We’re sitting here drinking German beer and listening to American jazz music in the middle of rural Thailand,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s Thailand where they have a military dictatorship or the United States, we’re really not that different. We all have our hopes and dreams, and we want the best out of this world.”


The Ichabod magazine spring 2021

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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