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Impactful Women of Brockport: Margaret Blackman takes unusual path to become mayor

Village of Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman was a professor at SUNY Brockport for 30 years. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Blackman)

By Paul Cifonelli / Editor-in-Chief

Village of Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman didn’t grow up aspiring to be a politician. She didn’t take a political science class during her undergraduate studies at Miami University of Ohio or at The Ohio State University in her doctoral work. 

Blackman’s interest was anthropology. This interest was driven by a desire to immerse herself in different cultures that was started at a young age. 

That desire is what led me into anthropology,” Blackman said. “I was always curious about other ways of life than what I was raised in. I was always fascinated in Native American cultures and I got very interested in the Northwest coast, particularly the Haida, that I studied, through a series of historical photographs. They were photographs of their villages and such. That’s what really got me into going there and doing my dissertation on photographic ethnohistory.” 

After earning her doctorate, Blackman got her first job at the University of Delaware in 1972. She made her move to Brockport in 1977 when she started teaching at SUNY Brockport. 

“The move to Brockport was for personal reasons,” Blackman said. “I was in a relationship with a faculty member at Brockport and we were trying to find jobs together. He interviewed for a job at Delaware at the chair of the department and didn’t get it. A position came open at Brockport for an associate professor and I got the position. The position came open because the only female anthropologist in the department left to go join her husband. There was a kind of a push, not just at a departmental level, but higher up at the administrative level, to hire another woman for that position.” 

Despite getting a push from administration, Blackman always felt like she belonged in the position and wasn’t treated like she was filling a quota. 

“I did feel like I had my place,” Blackman said. “I knew other members of the department. I didn’t feel like I was just hired because I was a woman. I feel like I had the credentials and I made it on my own merits. I didn’t feel like I was a token woman, not at all.” 

Blackman taught in the anthropology department at Brockport for 30 years and retired in 2007. She decided to return as an adjunct professor shortly after retiring to teach her favorite courseFood and Culture. 

The Brockport mayor got deeply involved in village politics shortly before her retirement from full-time teaching in 2007. 

“My other experience with village politics started in 2005 when I ended up serving as the first chair of the village’s Tree Board,” Blackman said. “I ended up in that position because, when I was teaching at Brockport, I had an anthropology student who wanted to do an internship in forestry. I told them, ‘I would be happy to work with you on that, but if you’re going to do forestry it has to have some human component in it.’ I got him an internship with the mayor, and he created the Village Tree Board and I became the first chair. I ended up writing the first ordinances in the village law for trees in that role.” 

Margaret Blackman has been the mayor of the Village of Brockport since 2013. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Blackman)

Blackman then ran for a seat on the Brockport Village Board in 2011 and won. In 2013, She decided to try and make the jump to become the mayor. 

“I had been really active on the village board and, with some of my other trustees, were critical of the then-mayor who was in favor of dissolving the village,” Blackman said. “There was a lot of dysfunction at village hall, so I thought I would like to run for mayor and see if this could be fixed. 

Blackman has been the mayor since 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. Looking back on her eight-year run, there are a few things that stand out to her. 

“For the last several years I’ve had a terrific village board to work with,” Blackman said. “We don’t agree on everything and our natural party affiliations are different, but that really doesn’t enter into it in local government matters,” Blackman said. “We’re collaborative, everybody works hard and it’s been a terrific experience. The thing I think I’m proudest of is looking into green energy for cost savings for people.” 

Blackman is the fourth female mayor of Brockport, all of whom have held office since the 1990s. On the other hand, the Village of Pittsford elected its first female mayor in 2021. Additionally, four of the 10 Monroe County villages have female mayors. 

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