© Star file photo
CORNER BROOK She won’t say exactly when it happened, or in what part of the city it occurred, but a few years ago Priscilla Boutcher returned home from campaigning to have her husband tell her that she needed to phone a local lady because she had called crying about campaign signs.
“We were short a sign for this particular area,” said Boutcher. “She called the house, she was crying on the phone, because we never had a sign up there.
“Well, we went and got a sign from somewhere else and I got my husband to go up with me and we put the sign on her lawn.”
The woman came out and was still crying, so Boutcher asked how she was doing. It was then that she learned the woman’s husband was in hospital and wasn’t expected to live long.
“I found that funny,” she said of how the woman was so concerned about not having an election sign with all that going on.
But the story gets even funnier.
The man died and Boutcher, feeling like she should pay her respects to the family, decided to visit the wake. As she and some campaign workers approached the funeral home, Boutcher told everyone to take off their campaign buttons out of respect.
“She’s coming out shaking her blouse, ‘I’m so glad I got your button,’” said Boutcher, laughing at the thought of the widow wearing one of her campaign buttons.
“Here I was, totally embarrassed,” said Boutcher through laughter.
But the story gets even more bizarre.
“She had one on her husband in the casket, too.”
Boutcher recalls going in and talking to the funeral home director about it and his response was, “Don’t feel bad Priscilla, just go home and say you just lost another vote.”
“Oh my god that was so funny,” said Boutcher.
That story is just one of many that Boutcher can tell about her 24 years as a municipal politician in Corner Brook.
“I’ve got no regrets. I’ve served my community as well as I could,” said Boutcher on Wednesday as she reflected on those years following her defeat in Tuesday’s election.
Boutcher ranked ninth in the polls with 2,036 votes and finished ahead of other incumbents who also lost their seats. Donna Luther polled 1,953 votes in the election. Following closely behind was Gary Kelly with 1,932 votes, and Leo Bruce, who managed to secure 1,855 votes.
Tuesday’s election was the seventh for Boutcher, whose six terms included one as mayor.
“Naturally I was disappointed, but I never came home crying,” she said. “I wasn’t upset. I said all along you take nothing for granted.”
In looking at the numbers, Boutcher said she can see that people wanted a change, but also believes that having 21 people running for six positions affected the outcome.
“I think the number of people made a difference,” she said, “because it was up and down.”
Boutcher watched as the results came in at city hall and chose to leave when she saw the numbers going against her.
“I was pleased with what I did,” she said.
Boutcher still had children at home when she first decided to run for politics. She said the decision grew out of other volunteer activities she was involved with as a parent, from Brownies and Girl Guides to parent-teacher associations. People had started calling on her for help and she would do whatever was needed, from writing letters to starting petitions.
“They were pleased and the word got out,” she said.
Soon there followed suggestions that she run for council. In her first election she beat her nearest competitor by 129 votes.
“My mind was blown away.”
Throughout her career, Boutcher said she’s gained a lot of knowledge and experience.
“I could almost be consulting to some of them people down there now,” she said with a laugh.
Working on council and with organizations like Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities helped her to do her job, and to do a better job, she said.
It was a job filled with many challenges and many rewards.
When she served as mayor, Boutcher had to overcome male-dominated attitudes.
“There was certain individuals who thought I couldn’t do that job and I think that I proved myself — that a woman could do it.”
In some areas, Boutcher said some people went too far to create problems where there were none. She pointed to the recent controversy over the Thomas Resources application to conduct test drilling in the watershed area. Boutcher said the application had nothing to do with a mine and was only on exploration.
“We can’t deny people an application or a business an application. They’ve go to go through the process.”
During an earlier term, she said the development of Murphy Square was a big issue with people against the arrival of big box stores.
As a councillor, Boutcher said disappointment came from not being able to do things like pave or repair every street in the city.
“The governments of the day now are cutting back, cutting back, and I think it’s going to get more challenging and hard for people to do these projects unless the (provincial) government comes through with more capital works money.”
But even with the challenges, Boutcher said she’s proud of the work she’s done and of being able to help people. The biggest thing she’ll miss is being a part of the community and helping, but she won’t be sitting idle.
“If I’m bored I’ve got to work.”
Boutcher said she’ll probably do some travelling, continue with some of the volunteer activities she’s involved with and may even write a book.
“I had it started, but I shelved it away. I’ve got a lot of funny stories.”
There’s even been a suggestion she should be appointed as an ambassador for the city.
“Oh my god, I don’t know if there’s such a thing,” she said with a laugh.