Bouchot attended the interview dressed in a blue dress shirt and pants, as he dresses in many of his campaign photos. With his glasses and easy smile, Bouchot looks a bit like the actor Mark Ruffalo. His appearance helps sell his platform as an authentic candidate, presenting himself as he is.
The Quaker Campus met with District 2 City Council candidate Henry Bouchot last Friday at a deli in Uptown Whittier. We spoke to him about his platform for the April 10 election, his plans for the future of Whittier, and how he plans to work with both the community and Whittier College.
“I fell in love with [Whittier] the moment I laid eyes on my house, and probably even before then,” said Bouchot. “But, I’m frustrated because City Hall is not paying attention to our needs the way that they should be. It feels like there’s a disconnect where we’re living one type of life and they’re seeing another type of life, and I’m not interested in painting a picture that doesn’t exist. I’m just interested in helping normal people get the changes that they’re looking for.”
Bouchot hopes for a symbiotic relationship to form between the city of Whittier and the College. “I can picture a Whittier where there’s a tech incubator at the College, where there’s a biotech hub at the hospital, and where it’s all mutually enforced by a thriving Uptown live-work center. [A city] where a student might even be able to buy an entry-level condo, or loft,” he said. While Bouchot would like to embrace Whittier College as a training center where talent and work skills can develop, he realizes that there is a separation between the city and the College.
“Other candidates might have a connection to Whittier College and might say they want to better Whittier College . . . but as a city councilmember, I have no control over Whittier College, whatsoever. To say that you want to better Whittier College is a fundamental misunderstanding of what civic municipal government is. But, you can help Whittier College by helping the city, and the closest thing to Whittier College is Uptown. I’m not just talking about putting in more bars and putting in more coffee shops. I’m talking about bringing collaborative workspaces to Uptown. I’m talking about making this a place where students can get off campus and come back on campus and have had a good experience when they left,” said Bouchot.
“I think [transparency] really means authenticity. I hope you can see now that I don’t put on airs. I’m not a fancy guy. I’m pretty new to politics, and it’s a difficult world to navigate, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be false,” said Bouchot. “The main takeaway is that I believe, fundamentally, that voters are smart, and that they’re looking for something to care about . . . I’m not dumbing down things. I’m giving you my honest opinions about things, in a way that I think you’ll find relevant.”
Bouchot’s campaign is bolstered by a strong undercurrent of frustration with the way the current city council relates to its constituents. “I think, currently at City Hall, you have sort of a paternalistic approach. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like as a college student to want to even get involved in that. I don’t even want to go to city hall and speak, because I don’t feel empowered. I want to empower people, young people who really value authenticity and transparency in their relationship with government. I think the time when Whittier could be lead by a group of retired volunteers on the City Council is long gone. Running a city is more dynamic than that,” he said.
Bouchot is new to politics, but he has worked a variety of jobs in a variety of sectors.
“I have experience in the nonprofit sector, the private sector, and the government sector. . . on the government side,” he said. “I was an attorney in the Marine Corps for about four and a half years on active duty. I also worked in the Garcetti Administration at City Hall in Los Angeles. And, on the nonprofit side, I worked at a nonprofit called Inner City Law Center recently, most recently, where we helped homeless veterans in Downtown Los Angeles, and that caused me to start my own nonprofit that helps disabled veterans, just in a different way. In the private sector, my parents were small business owners growing up. We grew up around businesses and other type of ventures, and I ended up getting my MBA.”
Bouchot also believes that some of his past experience working with law enforcement will help him work with Whittier Police Department. “In the Marine Corps, I was in charge of working with police officers, even in a deployed combat environment -— helping to make sure that investigative procedures are in compliance with ethical rule,” said Bouchot. “At the mayor’s office, I was working with Los Angeles Police Department to manage a major domestic violence [program] called the Domestic Abuse Response Team Program. So, I work with everybody, from the beat cop to the chief.”
Bouchot’s campaign focuses largely on revitalizing Uptown Whittier. The first step of the plan is to oppose the construction of the Comstock parking lot. “I want to make the focus on people, not cars. The City Council has $13 million to revitalize Uptown, and they’re going to spend the vast majority of it on a parking lot?” asked Bouchot. “That doesn’t help the students at Whittier College at all. They want to go to a nice, entertaining city center.”
The second part of Bouchet’s plan is to reinvigorate public transportation in Whittier. His campaign website states that he supports “the creation of an intracity transportation service that would shuttle residents between major community sites, such as PIH, the Whittier Museum, the Train Depot, Hellman Park, Central Park, the Greenway Trail, and Whittier College.”
The third part of Bouchot’s plan is to “address safety in Uptown.” His website states, “In exchange for redevelopment funds, the Council strong-armed Uptown property owners into forming a Community Benefit District (CBD) and taxing themselves $500,000 a year to pay for increased services. The truth is those services should not be considered ‘extra’ at all. It is the city’s responsibility to provide these services. I would make sure the $500,000 is used for the benefit of the businesses.”
Bouchot concluded the interview by reaching out to any interested Whittier Students. “We really need help. I know students are probably busier than professionals because they’re both professionals and professional students, but being a part of this campaign, I think, will really help students grow. And if anyone wants to come out and support us, I promise that they’ll have a valuable experience. They might not get a grade, but they’ll get to work hand in hand with me in reshaping this community,” he said. “I’m just really excited to meet any Whittier College students who come out. Go Poets!”