Mary Bouchard received the democratic nomination at the Ulysses Democratic Caucus July 12, garnering 63 out of a total 111 votes for one vacant seat on the Ulysses Town Council and edging out appointed incumbent Marc Devokaitis. She joins Nancy Zahler, democratic candidate for Ulysses Town supervisor, and Thomas Schlee, for Ulysses Town justice, as unopposed candidates for each position on the ballot.
As a newcomer to the Town Council, she took a moment, in advance of the election coming up Nov. 3 to answer a few questions about herself and her road to the Ulysses Town Council candidacy.
Free Press: How long have you lived in Ulysses? Where are you from originally?
Bouchard: I have lived in Ulysses for 35 years. I came here for employment in 1985 from northern New York, prior to living in Chicago (seven years) and Albany (two years). I am originally from Clayton, NY, in the Thousand Islands. Clayton is about the same size as Ulysses, maybe a little bigger.
What made you want to run for a position on the Ulysses Town Council right now, at this point in time?
Having worked for the town for five years as bookkeeper, and also having been a Village Trustee, as well as being involved as a volunteer for many local organizations over the years, I thought I could bring a unique perspective to the Town Board.
Since it is a one-year position, I thought I’d bring to the job a built-in understanding of local government, due to my village experience, and town government, due to my previous employment for the town.
What is your educational and professional background?
I graduated from Alfred University and the University of Chicago, where I obtained an MBA. I’ve held jobs in management, auditing, and accounting throughout my career. I’ve also done a little teaching at Elmira College and Ithaca College. I’m currently a self-employed CPA, in a practice that is busy during tax season, February through April. The rest of the year I’m semi-retired, and focus on my nonprofit volunteerism, and, seasonally, bicycling, and tending my small backyard apiary.
What qualifies you to be on the town board? What positive qualities do you believe you have to offer?
In addition to what I mentioned above, I have deep and wide roots in the community. I have the community connections that will give locals a willing ear to listen to their concerns. I’m also a persistent researcher—if I need to find out about something, I don’t quit until my questions are fully answered.
I also feel that my financial background will be a positive aspect of my candidacy. Municipalities are facing some challenges from a financial standpoint, and in my opinion these have not yet been fully realized. Ulysses is in fairly good shape due to good prior financial stewardship, but the future is still very uncertain due to the COVID pandemic. Unemployment is high, businesses are still shuttered or operating at reduced capacity. Although I’m basically an optimist, I also like to think I’m a realist.
What was it like to run your successful campaign against the incumbent? What strategies did you use?
Calling it a campaign might be an overstatement. The Ulysses Democratic Committee uses a caucus method of choosing candidates, which means you have to show up at the caucus to have a vote; however, because of COVID, shortly before the caucus there was a change in NYS regulations in which proxies could be submitted, and so people who didn’t want to be at a large gathering, or who were unavailable because of vacation or other obligations could appoint someone else to vote for them.
I mentioned that I wanted to run to several people, and they and I gathered proxies, as well as encouraged attendance at the caucus. The number of supporters and proxies needed to secure the nomination was unknown both to me and to my opponent. I just got as many as I could in the few days between when the decision was made to allow proxies, and before the caucus. Perhaps it was just good fortune that I garnered the most support!
How did it feel to win by such a large margin, especially given the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s caucus due to COVID-19?
Well, I’m essentially a modest person, and it’s stressful to have to get up and tell people why you think you’re the best person for the position. People who came to the caucus might have come with their support for one candidate or another. Maybe their minds were changed at the caucus, maybe not. I hope that I can fulfill the public’s confidence in me, and be the best possible town board member I can be.