Concord Mayor Jim Bouley seeks fourth term
In this file photo, Mayor Jim Bouley stands next to Nancy Mellitt, left, a board member for the Centennial Senior Center, during the Centennial Senior Center's open house in Concord on October 8, 2009. Bouley announced he will be seeking fourth term as Concord's mayor. He ran unopposed in 2009 and won in a landslide victory against John Cook in 2011.
(Katie Barnes / Monitor file photo)
Editorial review board with mayor Jim Bouley; Thursday, October 20, 2011.
(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor file photo)
Jim Bouley is seeking a fourth term as Concord’s mayor.
“I think we still have a considerable amount of work to do, projects that we’ve started as a city and a city council, that I’d really like to see completed,” Bouley said in an interview yesterday. “I think we’re in the middle of several of them.”
He said the city’s redesign of Main Street is “probably the biggest” on the list of ongoing projects, which also includes the final phases of the Route 3 reconstruction project, work to extend Storrs Street, the replacement of the Sewalls Falls Bridge and potential improvements to Loudon Road.
But Bouley also believes he can provide steady leadership of the city’s finances and budget. After he was first elected mayor in 2007, the city faced an economic downturn. Now, the economy is turning around and the city is looking toward more projects and economic development.
“I think that keeping a steady hand on the budget and our financial issues is important, and I’d like to continue to make sure we see that through,” he said.
Under Concord’s system of government, the mayor is elected citywide but has few official powers. Mayors lead the city council meetings and hold just one of 15 votes on the council. Bouley said he has worked behind the scenes to start discussions, build consensus and address concerns.
He pointed to the upcoming Main Street redesign project as an example.
“I think I have the ability to bring people together,” he said. “I am a strong believer in process is important. . . . When people come to testify before the council, I want them to feel that they are in a place in which they will be heard, that they truly will be listened to, that their opinion matters.”
Bouley said no one expected that Concord would receive a competitive federal grant last year to revamp downtown. He took time to appoint a 17-member committee that could make recommendations to the council. He estimates the city held more than 50 public meetings about the project, which will reduce traffic on Main Street from four to two lanes, widen sidewalks, add landscaping and public art and improve accessibility.
“I think it’s fair to say that no city project has ever had that much scrutiny, that much public input before it was decided whether to go forth or not,” he said. “And I think that’s what I bring to the table, the ability to kind of bring folks together, put people in a safe environment where they can give their opinions and be part of the process.”
The city has had a balanced budget for the past five years, and Concord’s bond rating has improved. Bouley calls the improved bond ratings one of the city’s greatest recent accomplishments, as it saves money for taxpayers.
He said he has also pushed the council to “think long term” with its budgets. The city has increased its capital improvement projects through outside funding. Main Street, for example, will be redesigned with the help of a $4.71 million federal grant.
In Bouley’s third term, the city has helped other groups complete projects. Bouley said he’s happy the city has sought grant funding on behalf of the Friendly Kitchen for a new building on South Commercial Street, and for the Concord Boys & Girls Club clubhouse construction project.
“Unfortunately, because of tough economic times we’ve had to reduce our ability to give to organizations, but if we can help leverage dollars, we have a huge need in our community for so many,” Bouley said.
Though there has only been a small growth in the tax base in recent years, Bouley said there have been some important development projects. The city has long had a goal of creating more market-rate housing downtown, and he said city officials worked to help CATCH Neighborhood Housing open market-rate apartments at the new Endicott Hotel.
Bouley said he is working to move other city projects forward. He is frustrated that the aging Sewalls Falls Bridge over the Merrimack River has not been replaced yet, but he has been in contact with New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to ask for help with the federal approval process.
Community center, library
If elected to another term, Bouley said he will also continue conversations about building a new community center on the Heights and making long-term plans for the Concord Public Library.
Asked when the city will get a new library, Bouley said he hasn’t given up hope on that project. Funding for a new library is slated for fiscal year 2022 in the city’s capital improvement plan, but the city has allowed developers interested in the Employment Security site on South Main Street to propose a new library as part of their plans.
“We need to continue to ask the community where it is in the priority list,” Bouley said. “And I think that when opportunities present themselves, the city needs to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Also in a fourth term, Bouley said he would work to address the issue of homelessness. Earlier this year, he appointed a committee to develop a plan for ending homelessness in Concord.
“I think by having the title (of mayor) you can get people to discuss things that you may not want to discuss, you can push . . . issues that sometimes people don’t necessarily want to talk about,” he said. “It’s not in the charter, it’s not an agenda item for the next month’s agenda, but it’s something that I want to be able to bring forth and make people think about.”
Quieter changes the biggest
But some of his greatest accomplishments as mayor, Bouley said, have been quieter changes to city government or one-on-one work with constituents.
He said he’s proud of pushing for better customer service at City Hall, because he wants government to be more accessible to residents. The city clerk and collections offices are now open on Thursday evenings, and the city launched a new website this year.
“That philosophical change, though it may seem small, I think it’s really something I’ve been pretty proud of that we’ve been able to push and to make happen.”
Bouley, 47, lives in East Concord with his wife, Tara Reardon, and their 15-year-old son, Jackson. He works as a lobbyist for the firm Dennehy & Bouley.
The firm, he said yesterday, has recently purchased an office condo on Depot Street, on the fourth floor of the building that holds Cheers restaurant. For the past five years, the firm has rented office space from Concord developer Steve Duprey on Hills Avenue. It is one of many spaces Bouley has rented downtown during his career.
“So I’ve had a whole group of landlords . . . and I’ve never seen a problem with having my office downtown,” he said. “But being able to own our own, I’m looking forward to it.”
Bouley was elected in 2007 over former city councilor Katherine Rogers. He ran unopposed in 2009 and won a landslide victory over John Cook in 2011.
The filing period for city elections begins Sept. 6. Also up for election in November are all 10 of the ward councilor seats and the at-large council seats currently held by Councilors Dan St. Hilaire and Michael DelloIacono.