April 18, 2023

RALEIGH — The John Locke Foundation is excited to enter a new era on July 1, 2023, when Donald Bryson succeeds Amy O. Cooke as chief executive officer and publisher of Carolina Journal. Locke announced Bryson’s promotion and Cooke’s retirement Tuesday.
Bryson and Cooke have worked together for more than two years, with Cooke as CEO and Bryson as president and chief strategy officer of Locke. The two shepherded Locke through the merger of the John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Institute in 2021. Bryson had served as Civitas president and chief executive officer before the merger.
“I am honored to have been selected by the John Locke Foundation board of directors as the new CEO,” Bryson said. “I am committed to upholding Locke’s legacy of promoting individual liberty, free markets, and limited government in North Carolina while bringing new ideas to the table to tackle the challenges of our changing times.”
“We are delighted to have Donald assume the CEO position as the John Locke Foundation continues its work to enhance freedom and prosperity in North Carolina,” said Paul Slobodian, chairman of the Locke board of directors. “Donald has been a key member of our senior management team, working with Amy to create new, strategic initiatives and re-energize our programs.”
Cooke, known to her fans as “The Right AOC,” joined Locke as president and CEO in January 2020. She is the first woman to lead the organization. Prior to Locke, Cooke had served as executive vice president of the Independence Institute in Colorado.
“Leading the John Locke Foundation has been the professional honor of a lifetime,” Cooke said. “We have an incredibly talented team. North Carolina is freer because of it. I know they will continue to accomplish great things on behalf of all North Carolinians, and I will continue to be their biggest champion, just from a slightly different vantage point, including from a chair on one of North Carolina’s beautiful beaches!”
“Amy has had an outsized impact on the John Locke Foundation as CEO, and she will be sorely missed. We wish her the best as she continues to fight for liberty in new capacities,” Slobodian said.
With Cooke’s and Bryson’s leadership, Locke has since 2021:

  • Helped secure a more affordable, reliable, and secure energy future for North Carolina through the passage of House Bill 951.
  • Advocated the 2021 Appropriations Act (“First in Freedom” Budget), which lowered tax rates, expanded school choice, and reformed North Carolina’s Emergency Management Act to ensure a governor can no longer unilaterally keep our state in a state of emergency indefinitely.
  • Launched three brand-new research centers focused on education, energy/agriculture, and public integrity.
  • Promoted important donor privacy reforms.
  • Created Locke’s first-ever grassroots outreach department.

While retiring from day-to-day duties with Locke, Cooke will continue to advance liberty on other fronts. Her work in energy policy will take on a national profile as she serves as a consultant advancing policies to benefit energy consumers across all sectors in the United States.

“The work that Amy Cooke has done at the helm of Locke has been transformative for the organization and invaluable to the free-market movement,” Bryson said. “She gracefully steered the organization through the COVID pandemic and the merger with the Civitas Institute, guiding staff to create new capabilities and continue to be one of the nation’s most influential state-based think tanks.”
Bryson looks forward to serving as Locke’s fifth chief executive in its more than 30-year history.
“Our state is an attractive place to do business and call home, and I look forward to working with the talented staff at Locke to find innovative solutions, fighting to improve the lives of a new generation of North Carolinians,” he said.
You can read more about Amy’s retirement, in her own words, here.