Remembering Kathleen “Kathy” Corkin Boyle, Dedicated East Lansing Public Servant

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Raymond Holt for ELi

Kathy Boyle at the Sept. 11, 2019, meeting of East Lansing's Planning Commission.

Kathleen “Kathy” Corkin Boyle – an attorney and clear-eyed public servant to East Lansing who served on City Council, Planning Commission, Housing Commission, the Age Friendly Communities Steering Committee, and the Study Committee On An Independent Police Oversight Commission – died on Feb. 3. She was 72.

Along with her service to East Lansing, Boyle was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church where she served on the vestry. A memorial service for Boyle will be held there this Saturday.

Boyle was extremely dedicated to her community, continuing to volunteer her time on various boards and commissions after she had already served on City Council. As recently as 2021, she was a member of both the Planning Commission and Study Committee On An Independent Police Oversight Commission. 

Through her public service, Boyle exhibited a knack for finding the core of whatever issue was at hand. She asked the pertinent questions and moved the conversation forward. She was direct, but not confrontational, those who served alongside her recalled.

“She just had a really great way of communicating,” said Chuck Grigsby, who served on the Police Oversight Study Committee with Boyle.

Current Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg first noticed Boyle’s ability to be direct but non-adversarial when she covered her stint on City Council for ELi. And that ability came front and center when Gregg decided to run for City Council in 2019. 

One day early in Gregg’s candidacy, Boyle came to Seams Fabric — Gregg’s store downtown, where Boyle, an avid crafter and seamstress, was a regular — and just started talking shop about running for office. It could’ve been a move that came across as domineering. Gregg found Boyle’s constructive, upfront advice to be invaluable. The relationship grew as Boyle became a quasi-advisor for Gregg. 

When Gregg got on Council, Boyle frequented the office hours Gregg held at the East Lansing Public Library, where Boyle continued to discuss City issues with Gregg — both when they agreed and disagreed. 

At the City Council meeting on Feb. 8, Gregg took a moment in her Council member comments to remember Boyle.

“I, personally, owe her a debt of inspiration. I definitely thought of her as a mentor. I don’t know if she knows that I thought of her as a mentor and I probably should’ve mentioned it. I thought that I had more time. But before I get too emotional, I’ll just acknowledge her great service to this community and the hole that is left with her passing,” Gregg said.

Dan Bollman, who served on the Planning Commission with Boyle, noted how she had pushed and helped Gregg — as well as former Council member Shanna Draheim — in their Council runs. She was interested in helping the next generation of public servants find their place.

Boyle’s knack for clear and direct questioning without being adversarial was invaluable on the Planning Commission, and to Bollman when he was chair. She frequently managed to ask an overlooked question that turned out to be important.

“She made my job as a chair a lot easier,” Bollman said. “It does make it a lot easier to make sure that the meeting is going smoothly, knowing that you’ve got clutch players. And Kathy was definitely one of them.”

Boyle’s background as an attorney who focused mostly in labor law — she earned her J.D. from Syracuse University in 1977 — played a role in shaping her mode of public service. It was not hard to imagine her asking the same probing questions across a negotiation table.

She was also thorough, seemingly always asking the last nagging question that hadn’t been broached. And the ends weren’t to win some legal battle, but to best serve the residents of East Lansing — something Boyle never strayed from.

Boyle’s public service culminated, in some ways, in her stint on the Police Oversight Study Committee. Boyle joined the Study Committee to fill a vacancy that came open after the work had already begun but didn’t miss a beat. 

Grigsby, who chaired the Study Committee, remembered calling Boyle after she got appointed to let her know there was a lot of work and information to catch up on.

“And she immediately told me that she had been paying attention and that she had no problem with getting caught up and figuring out how she could be involved in a way that was productive. And she did exactly that,” Grigsby said.

Her professional background as an attorney turned out to be invaluable as the critical stages of drafting a proposed ordinance to form the Police Oversight Commission were getting underway. She worked with Erick Williams, an attorney and Study Committee member from the start, to craft the ordinance that would need to be approved by Council. 

Beyond helping to draft the ordinance to form the Police Oversight Commission, Boyle and Williams defended the draft ordinance — and by extension the work of the Study Committee — after it went out for feedback from Foster Swift and the City’s labor counsel.

Fellow Study Committee member Chris Root found Boyle’s labor law background to be invaluable in that moment, as Boyle and Williams wrote a legal memo responding to the feedback, point by point. Along with some minor tweaks made to the ordinance, that memo went to City Council as an explanatory document.

“I think that was very helpful because it made very clear to the Council the thoroughness of the Study Committee’s consideration of the draft language and that there were two lawyers communicating to them that this made sense,” Root said.

She continued: “And Kathy had a wonderful ability to identify what was important, and what were teeny things that didn’t need to be worried about.”

A memorial service for Boyle will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 11:00 AM, with visitation at the church beginning at 10:00 AM. Due to Covid-19, masks will be required and there will be no reception following the service. 

The funeral service will stream live here

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