Three years ago, as mayor of the City of Elmira, Stephen M. Hughes organized a golf tournament to aid Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler in its fight against homelessness and hunger.
Little did Hughes know that those efforts were helping pave a path toward future employment with Catholic Charities.
Hughes, 42, began March 21 in the newly created position of Chemung/Schuyler’s director of development. According to Bridget Steed, the agency’s executive director, Hughes’s duties will center around event planning, direct-mail campaigns and other fundraising activities.
Hughes had become available after he was among some 800 people who lost their jobs in December 2004 when the Horseheads division of MT Picture Display Corporation of America closed. An 18-year employee of MT, he served as a quality-assurance supervisor. For nearly that entire time, Hughes, a Democrat, was concurrently involved in Elmira politics — 10 years as a city councilman and the last seven as mayor.
However, in order to work for Catholic Charities, Hughes had to relinquish his part-time mayoral position due to a federal regulation prohibiting nonprofit agency employees from doubling in political roles such as mayor — “anybody who could be influential in exercising the city’s discretion on funding,” explained Anthony Barbaro, associate director of diocesan Catholic Charities for the Southern Tier. Barbaro noted that the city and Catholic Charities both receive Department of Housing and Urban Development funds. The city was unsuccessful in its attempt to get a waiver for this restriction, so Hughes announced his resignation as mayor five days before beginning with Catholic Charities.
“I leave a family of very, very good people in city government; that’s the bitter side. But the sweet side is the very good family of people at Catholic Charities,” Hughes said, adding that he is ceasing all political involvement at this time. “Suffice to say that my focus will be on building up this development function. I intend to make that my sole priority.”
Hughes is being welcomed with enthusiasm at his new place of employment. “We had known Steve for some time. He had always been a friend of Catholic Charities,” Steed commented. “We always thought he was a person of integrity. He definitely has tremendous leadership skills.”
“Steve has been a very visible, community-minded, spirited leader,” Barbaro added, noting that “we were very, very impressed” with Hughes’ work on the Mayors’ Golf 4 Food Tournament — an event that Hughes will continue to coordinate in his new position.
Barbaro noted that Hughes attended the dedication of several Catholic Charities facilities while serving as mayor. In addition, Hughes has served on several community boards: the Equal Opportunity Program; Woodlawn Youth Center; Southern Tier Economic Growth; Southern Tier Economic Development; and the Empire Development Zone Administrative Board.
Hughes said that in his work with Catholic Charities, he’s anxious to promote the myriad services that are provided by the agency. And yet, for all these good works, Catholic Charities faces the ongoing struggle of securing adequate funding.
“I am intimately aware of the limited government dollars available for not-for-profit agencies,” Hughes said.
“There seems to be less and less attention on the poor and vulnerable,” Barbaro agreed, adding that it was vital for Catholic Charities to create the position filled by Hughes as part of “a strategic plan with a full-blown development effort.”
Hughes and his wife of nearly 19 years, Linda, are lifelong Elmira residents. They have three children.