Boughton reflects on council term

Published 5:13 am Thursday, January 1, 2015

Austin City Council Member Roger Boughton sits at his council seat inside City Council Chambers on Monday.  Trey Mewes/

Austin City Council Member Roger Boughton sits at his council seat inside City Council Chambers on Monday.
Trey Mewes/

Austin’s most positive city council member is on his way out.

Roger Boughton attended his last Austin City Council meeting Tuesday as a 2nd Ward Council Member. Boughton, who campaigned in 2010 on a promise to only serve one term, kept to his word when he announced last summer he would not seek reelection.

“I’m a firm believer in term limits,” he said. “The more people who are exposed to government to see how it works, the better off our society is.”

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Boughton has served the Austin community in many ways since he and his wife, Cheryl, moved to the area in 1976. For 34 years, Boughton served as an administrator at Riverland Community College.

Since he moved to Austin, he also served and volunteered with the YMCA, Red Cross, KSMQ Public Television, the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Austin Port Authority, the Development Corporation of Austin, and several other organizations.

He participated in many organizations thanks to his ties with the city. Boughton was first appointed to the council in 2000, after another council member resigned. After only serving a year, Boughton said he was hooked on city government.

“I ran for council the next year and lost,” he said. “But I had a lot of fun.”

He finally made it back onto the council in 2010 when he beat Dick Pacholl 1,507 to 1,040 votes. From then on, Boughton served as a sounding board and often asked questions about whatever proposal came before the council.

During Boughton’s time, the board has dealt with a variety of issues large and small. Boughton was there in 2011 when the board voted down a potential rental registration ordinance for area property managers and landlords, and will help decided the issue Tuesday night once again.

Though there are several issues he knew would be large achievements for the city, he was surprised when residents reacted so strongly to issues like a proposed city logo and an ordinance to allow residents to raise chickens.

“There were some issues that were important to the people that I didn’t think were all that important,” he said. “Those were two issues that I got more feedback on than anything else. So the things that surprised me the most were things I never dreamed would be significant.”

During his time on the council, Bougton was appointed to work on several committees dedicated to the city’s economic development. He served as chairman of the Austin Housing & Redevelopment Authority and also worked on the port authority board at various points during his term, in part because of his interest in the city’s economy.

Boughton had previous experience with economic development, however. Back when he was an administrator for Riverland, Boughton took a sabbatical in the mid-1980s to work on a task force for the University of Wisconsin-Madison to see how Wisconsin could grow its economy as quickly as Minnesota did at the time. Since then, Boughton has always been interested in how economic development works.

“I thought it was something I could work on and contribute toward,” he said.

However, Boughton is most pleased with the work the city has done with Vision 2020. Ever since the community improvement initiative started in 2012, Boughton has been a large cheerleader for cooperation between the city and Vision 2020’s various projects. He serves on Vision 2020’s Community Recreation Center committee and has asked the city to look into ways to fund various Vision 2020 initiatives.

“It’s going to transform the city,” he said. “It’s going to be a very positive thing for the community.”

His colleagues will miss his experience on the council.

“Roger was the only academic on the council for years, ever since I’ve been here,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “He was a very good council member. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

Stiehm said Boughton had the ability to look at issues from a fresh perspective and his questions always helped the council make a better decision.

His fellow council members also thought highly of him.

“I have great respect for Roger,” Council Member Janet Anderson said. “He brings a thoughtful, balanced perspective to Council discussions.”

Boughton knew he would end his council term in 2014, however. He had been a big believer in serving few terms to allow the city to grow from fresh ideas.

“If you’re running for more than two terms, you’re likely just running for the office, and not to help the community,” he said.

To that end, Boughton approached Dave Hagen to replace him on the council. Though he and Hagen don’t always see issues in the same light — Boughton said he and Hagen “disagree on many issues” — he knew Hagen would represent the city well.

“He’s going to be a wonderful council member,” Boughton said.

Boughton is going to miss getting to know the city staff and all the updates on city affairs, but he’s still going to stay busy. He joined the state board of psychology in 2013 and is excited to continue working on various issues, including several senior committees for the aging.

“My wife told me I can’t stay at home,” Boughton said with a smile. “So I’m keeping myself busy.”