Jean Cochran, the only woman ever elected as supervisor of Southold Town and the first woman to serve on the Town Board, died on Thursday. She was 85.
Ms. Cochran, who lived in Southold, served as supervisor from 1996 to 2001, but her accomplishments go well beyond that.
She was the recipient of the North Fork Environmental Council Environmental Achievement Award in 1998, Southold Rotary’s Citizen of the Year and Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s Award of Appreciation in 1999, among others.
“Jean was the first woman in Southold history elected Supervisor and, to date, the only one,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “When she left town government, she left Southold a better place.”
Prior to winning the supervisor’s race in November 1995, Ms. Cochran was the first woman ever to serve on the Southold Town Board following her election to that position in 1985. She also served one term as a town trustee prior to being elected to the council seat.
Mr. Russell, who was an assessor when Ms. Cochran was supervisor, said he also ran a few campaigns with her.
“She had a sharp mind, a quick wit and always, always pursued goals that she thought were in the best interest of the Town,” he said. “Jean wasn’t afraid of adversity and always stood her ground. That said, she was flexible to different perspectives.”
During the course of her lifetime, she served as president of the Suffolk County Girl Scouts, she was a Southold school PTA president, a chairperson of Ducks Unlimited Peconic Bay Chapter, a member of the Peconic Bay Estuary executive board, a vice president of the New York State Association of Towns and even a past board member and Honorary Life Member of the Suffolk County Women’s Bowling Association.
Bill Moore, who was elected to a council position in 1995, served on the Town Board with Ms. Cochran for four years. They ran together on the Republican line in 1995.
“She and I grew really close in our time on the board together,” he said in an interview Thursday. “I became part of her family. I still have the campaign ads tucked in the files somewhere.”
He said one of the great accomplishments of Ms. Cochran’s tenure as supervisor was the addition of more parks, such as Strawberry Fields in Mattituck, and the park in Peconic that was named after her: “Jean Cochran Park.”
“She was always making sure we added more parkland,” Mr. Moore said.
In an interview with The Suffolk Times in 2011, Ms. Cochran said: “To me, Southold is farmlands and working people. It’s part of rural America.”
Upzoning Route 48 to reduce the building density was another major accomplishment under Ms. Cochran, Mr. Moore said.
Ms. Cochran was married to Carlisle “Pep” Cochran, who was a town police officer, for 62 years prior to his death in 2013, and they had four children. Her son Carlisle “Ty” Cochran is a retired town police chief.
The family will receive friends on Monday from 3 to 8 p.m. at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home on 51400 Main Road in Southold. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the funeral home’s chapel. Internment will follow at Willow Hill Cemetery in Southold.
Top photo caption: Jean Cochran pictured in 2001. (file photo)