Women's group seeks more posts

April 17, 1997


Staff Writer

Men hold nearly 80 percent of the elective offices in Washington County, but a fledgling women's group wants to change that.

Organizers of the group, Women At The Table, on Saturday will hold a forum aimed at recruiting more women to run for local office. Group leaders said they also want to increase the number of women in appointed positions.

"We have no (women) county commissioners and no delegates, save the ones we borrow from Frederick County," organizer Judy Lyons Wolf said. "That doesn't seem like representative government to me."


Wolf, a Sandy Hook area Democrat who is on the Washington County Commission for Women, said about 25 women have been meeting since last June.

Women are in 18 of the 84 county and local positions. Twelve of those positions are municipal mayor and council posts. Of the remaining six positions, three are held by state delegates who live in Frederick County but represent part of Washington County.

"Women are 51 percent of the population and obviously made a big difference in the last national election," said Linda Smith, vice president of the county chapter of the National Organization for Women. "But we have a very small number of women in elective offices in this area."

Women's rights activists are at a loss to say exactly why that is, but several said relatively few women run for office in the county.

Saturday's forum, to be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Hagerstown Junior College, is intended to address that. Speakers will include Joanne Benson, a delegate from Prince George's County, Md.

Wolf said a group called Another Hat In The Ring launched a similar drive in the mid-1980s. But with the recent success of women candidates nationally, she said she believes this latest effort has a good chance to leave a lasting impression.

"Now we have the success on the national level of women's political groups," she said.

Wolf said the group would like to become a mechanism for raising funds for women seeking elected posts in the county. She said the group will be nonpartisan and will avoid controversial issues such as abortion when it establishes its criteria for campaign donations.

Wolf and others speculated that one of the reasons there are few women in elected positions is that political parties and other organizations often do not encourage women to run.

"For a long time, it was a role they didn't think of for themselves," said N. Sharon Leatherman, who is on the Maryland Commission for Women.

Washington County Board of Education President B. Marie Myers, who has been on the board since she was appointed in 1970, said she has served with only one male colleague whom she felt did not respect women.

Wolf said Women At The Table plans to sponsor two more forums, one on making the decision to run for office and one focusing on the nuts and bolts of a political campaign.

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