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Councillor Mikki Bouchee's eulogy by Mayor Amanda Wilson
The eulogy by Mayor Amanda Wilson from the funeral of councillor Mikki Bouchee.
To David and Christine, thank you for the honour of inviting me to speak about our dear friend, Mikki.
I heard of Mikki before I met her.
I had heard of her in the 1990s when my Mum and Dad used to run the Holdfast Hotel.
Whenever there was an issue with noise or traffic or just the pub generally, Councillor Bouchee was there.
Sometimes, advocating on behalf of a resident.
Sometimes, advocating on behalf of the environment.
And sometimes - just being the voice of our community.
(She used to drive my Dad crazy).
And from the stories I’d hear from people in Glenelg - she seemed a larger than life character in my mind – one part Erin Brockovich, one part Joan of Arc, and one part Mae West.
So when I decided to run for Council in 2014 and she invited me out for coffee, I felt a bit intimidated.
This woman – this force of nature - had been on the Council since 1987.
What was I going to say?
(Luckily, I didn’t have to say much).
Mikki did all the talking.
Because it wasn’t so much “coffee”, but an interview.
She peppered me with questions.
Why was I *really* running for council?
Did I care about Glenelg?
What was I going to do for the elderly residents?
Did I support more high-rise developments?
And why don’t the park benches have arms?
(For those of you who don’t understand that last part, I’ll explain later. But she really asked me that).
Mikki wasn’t hostile or impolite in her questioning.
She just wanted to make sure that only people who really cared about our community were on the Council.
People like herself.
Mikki was first elected in 1987 as a Councillor for the City of Glenelg.
She was then elected as an Alderman for four years, before the amalgamation of Brighton and Glenelg.
She was then elected a further seven times as a Councillor for the City of Holdfast Bay serving for an amazing 18 years, including for a period as Deputy Mayor.
That’s 25 years’ service as a whole.
Think back to what Glenelg was like 25 years ago.
So much change in our lives and our community since that time.
Some changes for the good, some changes for the worse.
But through it all, Mikki was there representing our community.
As part of preparing for today, I went back and read all of the spiels that Mikki put in election brochures over that time.
Despite all of the change in the world around her, there was a consistent message on behalf of Mikki in all of these spiels.
Our senior citizens and elderly.
Our natural and built environment.
Advocacy for those without a voice.
She was concerned about all of our lives and the way that we lived together.
Social scientists call this “social cohesion”, but Mikki hated buzz words.
So I’ll tell you what it really meant - Mikki wanted everyone in Glenelg to feel that this was their community, and she was their voice.
Mikki felt strongly about things. She was forthright. She approached her role with intensity and passion. There were no half measures in her advocacy. When you spoke to her, she wanted you to know what she felt and what needed to be done.
And we can all see the results of that in her achievements over her life.
On Council, her achievements were varied, and ranged from:
- ensuring the security and stability of our major stormwater infrastructure
- being instrumental in requiring Council to have senior citizens and the elderly in the forefront of all of its strategies, and
- ensuring community groups and organisations received their fair share of funding, including this year, the Holdfast Bay Tennis Club.
Most recently, Mikki turned her concern to our natural environment. She advocated fiercely for Council to provide funding to protect Australia’s most endangered shorebird – the Hooded Plover - on our beaches.
And during the last three years the Plovers have, for the first time in decades, bred successfully on Seacliff beach.
This is a major achievement for a threatened species in a highly urbanised setting.
And in part, it’s thanks to Mikki. She was a Plover lover.
Of course, sometimes Mikki’s passions ran too strong.
(You all laugh, but you know it’s true. And Mikki would not want me to shy away from describing her as she was).
In Council meetings, she could light up like a firecracker.
She could be formidable in the chamber – unrelenting
In the early years, she would storm out when she was felt she wasn’t getting a fair hearing. The Guardian Messenger quotes her in 1989 departing the meeting saying “she could no longer stomach an action that was manipulative and secretive”.
Even in more recent times, she would argue her causes fiercely, hand slapping on the table with derision at some of the arguments put against her.
But she never held a grudge or was mendacious (one of her favourite words).
Whenever there had been a fierce debate, she would later ring and apologise for her fierceness. She’d say “I have not taken my Beta Blockers”.
(Sometime I used to wonder whether she ever took them)
She could get fired up about the most obscure things.
I mentioned before about the arms on park benches. I don’t know how many meetings I have attended where she mentioned this issue.
And from newspapers articles, I see that in 1993, she campaigned against – vending machines.
There is an article in the Guardian Messenger with the headline “Fear Vending Machines Will Destroy Jetty Road” with a large picture of then Alderman Mikki Bouchee standing next to a very frightened vending machine.
She says in the article “They’re huge, they’re huge and they aesthetically unacceptable”.
I don’t know whether vending machines were quite the threat to our community that Mikki thought them to be, but I do know this – to this day, it is almost impossible to find one on Jetty Rd.
Because Mikki achieved her goals. She stuck to her guns. And she accomplished what she thought was right for the community.
Mikki was a warm and loving friend to all of us.
She was a particular support and comfort to me during my time as Mayor.
After I became Mayor, Mikki never hesitated to ring me and tell me what I was doing right.
Of course, she would also ring me and tell me what I was doing wrong.
Which on her calculation was about once a fortnight.
But when I needed someone to talk to, to cry to, to laugh with, she was always there.
And I know from speaking to many of you, she was always there for you too.
Thank you, Mikki, for your love, commitment and service to the City of Holdfast Bay and all of us.
I am very proud to say that, because of Mikki, our community is better, our homes are better, and our lives are better here in Glenelg.