County Face: Matt Bouchard of Caribou
CARIBOU, Maine — Matt Bouchard has lived in Aroostook County since being born in Caribou in 1979, and says he’s “been pretty lucky” workwise to find jobs that focus on sports and outdoor activities.
Bouchard now serves as the director of recreation for the Caribou Parks and Recreation Department, a place that’s been familiar to him for most of his life.
He went through the Caribou school system and, in high school, took on a part-time job at the rec department.
“I came in during the late fall of 1996 and asked Jim Saucier, who was my coach and the rec director at the time, to fix my baseball glove,” Bouchard recalled, “and then he offered me a job.”
He said he felt so comfortable in the setting that he chose to study physical education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle after graduating from Caribou High School in 1998.
After college, he said UMPI’s Financial Aid Officer Chris Bell and Admissions Director Brian Manter pulled him aside and asked him if he had any post-graduate plans.
“I said I didn’t really know what my plans were,” he said, “and they had an opening for an admissions counselor, which involved traveling all over New England and Canada recruiting students to go to school at UMPI.”
He took the offer and spent 2003 and 2004 meeting with students interested in attending UMPI, holding tours, and helping high schoolers through the admissions process.
“We had a week-long fair in Halifax, Nova Scotia,” he said, “and I met with high school students in Lowell, Massachusetts.”
He said one of his main pitches was that it was cheaper for Canadian students to get teaching degrees at UMPI and then to put those skills to use in Canada. He also emphasized other programs, such as criminal justice, offered by the Presque Isle university.
“I had summers off,” he said, “which was pretty cool, and during that time I worked here at the rec helping with the summer youth programs.”
As luck would have it, former Rec Director Jim Saucier was about to retire and Kathy Mazzucchelli, who was then parks and rec superintendent, offered Bouchard the newly opened position.
“She knew me because I’d worked for Jimmy since 1996,” said Bouchard. “I’ve been here ever since.”
He said the job involves wearing several hats. A typical day could involve setting up a youth sports program, coordinating local events such as the Harvest Hoedown and winter fun day, setting up softball and pickleball tournaments, or meeting with employees to discuss new objectives at the department.
For Bouchard, the only real challenge with the job is obtaining enough volunteers for local events.
“We’re very fortunate to get many volunteers to help us out,” he said, “but it’s always a challenge to find volunteers, especially during soccer season [a time when many high schoolers have packed schedules] and holiday events.”
Aside from high schoolers, he said some volunteers come from the local VFW ladies auxiliary as well as Loring Job Corps.
Fortunately, Bouchard’s hobbies tie in well to his work. He said he enjoys being the umpire for local baseball games and even serves on the Northern Maine Umpires Association, of which he was president for two years.
“We umpire high school and middle school baseball throughout The County,” he said, adding that he will umpire three eastern Maine games this year. He has also served in that capacity for state games.
He and his wife, Kerry Flanagin Bouchard, met while they were in college and married later in 2011.
“She also played sports when we were in college,”Bouchard said. “We never talked much then, but after college she stayed in the area, and I got to know her through work and some of her friends, and the rest was history.”
The couple currently live in Caribou, where they are raising three children. Bouchard says he makes sure to attend all of his stepdaughter’s high school basketball games.