SALAMANCA — Jamestown’s first woman mayor, Carolyn Gifford Seymour, is being remembered as a trailblazer following her death in Salamanca at age 81.
She served as Jamestown’s mayor in 1992-93. In addition, she owned The Bookshop on Third Street and in Warren.
She was elected mayor in 1991, beating Republican Donald Ahlstrom 4,652 to 4,562. She then lost in the Democratic primary in 1993.
She was the caretaker Jamestown needed at that time, Jamestown Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Walton told WNYNewsNow.
“She was the first woman mayor. That was a fairly calm time in the city. What we needed at that time was a caretaker and she was that caretaker,” Walton said.
“She was one of the first women to dominate in politics and be elected to high office,” Walton said. He said he knew Seymour for decades and always referred to her as Mayor Seymour. He recalled she was a very kind person.
Seymour could likely have won re-election had it not been for errors in the old AVM paper voting machines, according to Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green, who was not commissioner during the 1993 election.
She lost in the Democratic primary in 1993 and launched a write-in campaign, but new paper rolls were not added to the voting machines so hundreds “untold votes” were not counted in the election. Green said hundreds of people were coming to the polls to vote for her, but the votes were not recorded.
“What’s really sad is she won’t be here to see the first female vice president,” Green said.”She was a trailblazer.”
“She was all about women being involved in politics,” Green said. He said at that time, men dominated politics and wouldn’t let Seymour in the front door of city hall, but she found a way in and helped women gain a seat at the table.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist remembered Seymour’s dedication to volunteerism.
“We here in City Hall are mourning today the death of Jamestown’s first, and only, female Mayor – Carolyn Seymour. Carolyn Seymour served the city as Mayor from 1992-93 and was previously employed as Jamestown Mayor Stan Lundine’s assistant. She had an exemplary lifetime of service to the community through her volunteer efforts on many local boards as well as her time at Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation (CHRIC) and Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board. We extend our condolences to her family and invite the community to join us in honoring her memory,” Sundquist said in a statement.
She was valedictorian of Gorham Central School class, graduated summa cum laude from Houghton College, and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After serving as mayor of Jamestown, she was Executive Director of Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation (CHRIC), securing millions for lead paint abatement, housing and job programs for the county, retiring in 2010. Her last community work was volunteering for the 2010 census.
Moving to New York in 1972, she was research assistant for Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., assistant to Jamestown Mayor Stan Lundine, and later housing and economic development coordinator for Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board.
Her honors include Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation Lifetime Achievement Award, Jamestown YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, New York State Senate Woman of Distinction, and National Science Foundation Fellow.