The Transylvania Times -

Nearly 100 Local Women Gather For 1st "Women's Voices' Meeting - Brevard NC


Last updated 11/27/2013 at 8:19am

Women’s Voices kicked off its inaugural event Nov. 21 with nearly 100 women from throughout Transylvania County gathering to talk about how more women can be involved in local government.

“We were very pleased with the turnout for this first meeting,” said Joan VanOrman, one of the organizers. “It was great to see women of all political persuasions come together to learn more about local government.”

Women’s Voices is a non-partisan, inclusive collaboration of women whose primary purpose is to educate women on opportunities to serve in local city and county government on advisory boards and commissions and in elected office.

“One of the things that made me so excited to see the numbers coming out tonight for this event is the realization that we’ve got a group of women in our community who are ready to become more engaged and participate in their local government,” said Transylvania County Commissioner Page Lemel, one of the speakers at the event.

“We are at the point in our history right now where we can take a giant leap forward. We have the resources, we have the people, we have the potential, we can do it,” said Lemel.

“But in order to do it, we all have got to buy in, we’ve got to participate, we’ve got to ask the right questions, we’ve got to challenge some of the decisions. But we can get there together with enough effort. And I am excited to be a part of that.”

Joining Lemel was Ann Hollingsworth, newly elected member of the Brevard City Council.

“I know the time is right for this type of organization and I am so proud to be here at the beginning of this,” said Hollingsworth.

“I want to tell you now why it is important for women to be in leadership roles and in government: We need to bring a diverse group to the table to solve the problems of the 21st Century. I think that is very key,” she said.

“We can’t continue to sit on the sidelines and complain about politics and what’s going on in our community if we are not willing to be a part of the process and have a voice.”

Hollingsworth said at first she thought she was too busy to run for office, but then she realized, “I really can do this. I can shuffle things and I can learn how to be a better delegator.”

Women’s Voices is open to all women who:

• Want to encourage women to get involved in local government.

• May want to consider serving on a local government citizen advisory board or commission.

• May want to consider running for local public office at some point.

Attendees were given information about city and county citizen advisory boards and commissions and local elected offices. They were encouraged to learn about what is available and to get involved.

“If you are going to run for elected office, get involved now,” said Hollingsworth. “Get on committees. Get out in the community.”

Jeannie Falknor, one of the organizers, explained that there are 34 citizen advisory boards and commissions in Transylvania County and Brevard with nearly 240 slots. Some of the boards have no women members and many have one or two. Women hold about one-third of the positions.

She also said that there are 28 elected positions in local city and county government. Women hold 8 of those. But women make up nearly 52% of the population. “These statistics are motivation for our gathering,” said Falknor. “We can do better.”

Lemel urged everyone to avoid complacency about their government. “It is just imperative that we get more involvement out of our citizens.”

She pointed out that, “It is your city government and your county government that have the most influence, control, power, effect on your day-to-day existence as a human being.”

Women’s Voices’ guiding principles include:

• We value listening to each other respectfully.

• We value a thorough vetting of issues with a goal of understanding each other’s point of view.

• We value diversity of viewpoint in decision-making as a way towards compromise and connection in our community.

VanOrman noted in remarks at the meeting that “the last guiding principle really resonates with me. I think it is really powerful, it is so inclusive and it is so empowering.”

“We tried to cast as wide a net as we could for this first meeting,” said Falknor. “We want to spread the word that diversity and inclusiveness are really important.”

The organizers of Women’s Voices include Toby Cohen, Mary Scott Christfield, Falknor, Sue Hershey, and VanOrman. For more information, email Women’s Voices at [email protected]


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