Webster's Board Chairman Donald Bourque, candidate for state representative in the 18th Worcester District
This is the last in a series of interviews with the candidates for state representative in the 6th Worcester District, which includes Dudley, and the 18th, which includes Webster and precincts 1 and 4 in Oxford. All the interviews can be found online at www.patriotnewspaper.com. Click on Opinion and Letter from the Editor.
Donald Bourque is running for state representative and his priorities for the job are clear: Number one, jobs; number two, increased staffing for emergency services; and three, support for the elderly, disabled, and less fortunate among us.
Bourque, a Democrat and chairman of the Webster Board of Selectmen, is running to represent the newly configured 18th Worcester District, which includes Webster, Douglas, Sutton and precinct 1 and 4 in Oxford. He is challenging the Republican incumbent Ryan Fattman.
Jobs are on the top of every candidate’s list, but in Bourque’s case as the co-owner of a staffing agency in Webster and Worcester, he lives jobs every day.
In his own words: “I know what it’s like to start a business. Five years ago, in February of 2008, we started the agency, and by December I felt the fear that I’m going to lose everything, that I’m going out of business.” He didn’t blame the president, he said, or anyone else. “I got out there, pulled up my bootstraps and went to work. That’s what every businessman or business woman does. When it’s time to go to work I don’t rely on someone else to make things happen for me. It’s me putting my house, my livelihood on the line to get the job done.
“My job is to keep people in Central Mass employed. I’m doing whatever I can do to make that happen.”
If he’s elected to the state rep position, Bourque proposes to implement a district- wide program to bring businesses into the towns. He would structure an economic development team made up of one representative from each town, which he would chair. “This five-member board would come up with ideas to entertain businesses to come into our district from out of state or from other areas in Massachusetts. If we could bring in five new businesses that each employ 15 people, that would bring us 75 new jobs.” He would work at the state level and with local leadership, he said, to start such a program and expand it.
Bourque talked about cuts in local aid and their impact. “At the state house, when budgets are tight, what do they cut? Local aid. And when we get less local aid, when the towns have to deal with less and local authorities have to cut local services, what happens? The emergency services, the libraries, the senior services, the social services are cut.
“I was talking with someone today who works over at a local social service agency. She told me a story about a family living in a car because their house was foreclosed, and they literally had to go out and help this family get what they needed to get into a new place. These are not things we should cut. I will fight to the nth degree for local aid, to make sure we get what we deserve.”
Bourque’s concern for the lesser among us may have to do with his upbringing and early goals. He attended North Shore Community College and La Salette Seminary in Ipswich, where he studied to become a priest. “I always wanted to be a priest when I was a kid,” he said. “And I got very involved in the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church.”
He left after two years because of philosophical differences.
He worked in retail for a time, yet still felt the pull of the church. He went back to the seminary for another six months, but then left again. He went home and told his parents. “My father was a marine. First he hit me and then he told me he loved me.” His leaving the seminary was hard for both his parents, he said. He had chosen the priesthood not because he was the firstborn son, as was the custom in that generation, but because he wanted to, had felt that it was right.
“They were hurt, but now they see that I have a life that they could have only hoped for me. I’m very happy with my life. I live in a great town, where things are changing, happening. We are making a difference. Which is really no different than being a priest, because you can make a difference as a priest in someone’s life. Our board of selectmen, we’re making a difference for the people in this town.”
After leaving the seminary Bourque went to work as a sales rep for Image Software, a company now out of business. He co-founded his staffing agency in 2008. It serves local businesses with full-time and part-time temporary staffing as well as permanent placement.
In 2000 he joined the Webster Fire Department as an auxiliary firefighter. “Volunteering has always been important to me. “Believe me, it wasn't for the $3,000 that I put my life on the line.”
His other volunteer activities with local organizations include the Lions, Elks Club, Knights of Columbus in Webster, and St. Andrew Bobola festival.
In addition, he's the president of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and served as Ambassador of the Year for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2009 and 2010.
Bourque ran for the Webster Board of Selectmen in 2010. He used to watch the members argue and fight. “There was always a battle; we used to call it 'the show',” and he decided to run. He won by a wide margin.
“Look around,” he said. “There's construction going on everywhere. We're not taking credit for all of it, but the truth is we've been part of all of it. We've worked together with local businesses and the Office of Community Development. We have a board that works well together and a town administrator who works with all of us. We're all on the same page to help people, to move Webster forward. That's exactly what I would do as a rep in the Worcester 18th district.”
Bourque has made it a point to produce his campaign materials and signs locally, supporting local businesses such as the Party Planner, the Center of Hope, and Connelly Printing, in contrast with his opponent, who printed fliers in Virginia. Speaking of signs, he mentions that half of his campaign signs have been stolen from people's yards. Now some of them are reappearing randomly on lawns of people who did not request them.
We asked about his opinion on ballot questions 2 and 3. On number 2, the right to prescribe medication to end life, he supports that question, giving people the right to choose to end their life in the case of extreme suffering and a certain death. He said he hears stories of people's endless suffering, and says “It's your body, it's your decision. What decision is it of mine to say you cannot do that, cannot make your own decision. I'm more about the individual, allowing people to keep their dignity, than getting bureaucracy in the way of someone's life.”
On the question of medical marijuana, he echoes the thought. “What right do we have to say to someone you need to suffer? That's not the society that we live in. We live in a society where we care about people. If the law as written is not tight enough, it can be altered. Laws can and will change. The legislature will do the right thing, or should do the right thing,” he added.
On raising the minimum wage from $8 to $10, a bill currently in the legislature, Bourque believes that any increase should be very gradual, perhaps a $0.25/year. “$10 is too much of a stretch at once. I put people to work every day, and a good chunk of them make more than the minimum wage. As the economy improves and unemployment comes down, the wages will go up. With a smaller labor supply, employers will have to pay more to get qualified individuals.”
Bourque told us he believes in term limits. “I don't believe a state rep should be a rep for 12, 16, 18 years. I could be completely wrong, but I believe they become complacent and things just don't get done. He also believes the district has been under-served in the last year. “As soon as redistricting was announced a year ago, our rep closed his Webster office and was seldom seen here again.” He said “I want the job to do the job more than I want the title, unlike those who want the title more than they want to do the job.”
If elected, his guiding principle will be one that his father told him day in and day out when he was a kid, that “if at the end of the day you lay down and put your head on your pillow and feel comfortable about what you accomplished that day, then you've done your job.”
- Saturday, 03 November 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor