OUR VIEW: Mayor-elect Tracy on right trackWomen should have better representation on government boards.
Ken Tracy doesn’t hesitate when asked if he is considering naming a woman to fill a vacant seat on the City Council.
Tracy earlier this month won a six-person race for mayor and will take over July 2. He spent some time recently with the editorial board of The Daily Republic. Among the many topics discussed was the vacant seat on the council.
In an interesting twist, Tracy gets to fill the seat that he himself is vacating. On Tracy’s short list of about four candidates are three women. He said he is “absolutely” giving strong consideration to placing a woman on the council. We do not feel the seat must be replaced by a woman, but we do feel strongly that women should be better represented on the boards of this region.
In Mitchell, for instance, the City Council currently consists of eight men. The Davison County Commission is made up of four men and one woman, and the Mitchell Board of Education includes three men and two women.
Do the math. The three main decision-making boards in this city consist of 15 men and three women.
Five years ago, a Daily Republic study of government around the 16-county region showed that men far outnumbered women on city, school and county boards. At that time, there were 501 men and 125 women serving on elected, decision-making boards.
That number didn’t include mayors. For that office, men outnumbered women 44-5.
Why aren’t more women represented? It’s a good question with many vague and speculative answers, some of which border on sexism.
In 2007, for instance, we were told that women may feel more of a responsibility to spend time with their families and that the scrutiny of politics may keep women out of the fray.
Yet South Dakota has produced some exceptional women lawmakers, including former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and current U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem. Locally, we have seen some very capable woman decision-makers over the years — too many to name here at the risk of mistakenly omitting a few, although current school board members Brenda Freidel and Theresa Kriese are among them.
Again, we don’t feel it’s necessary for Tracy to nominate a woman just for the sake of her gender. That kind of decision-making only fills a quota, and doesn’t ensure Mitchell gets the best possible councilperson to fill the vacant seat.
But we do appreciate how Tracy understands that women are underserved on local boards, and that he’s very interested in fixing that problem.