Recently, Scott Condon wrote a story in The Aspen Times, “Basalt appears destined for a huge shake-up of its town council in April.” Condon reported that Mayor Jacque Whitsitt is up against term limits, therefore unable to return to council, and representatives Auden Schendler, Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle are also up for re-election, with only Schwoerer vaguely suggesting she may run again. Condon then interviewed former councilman Rob Leavitt, Glenn Drummond, a member of Basalt’s POST Committee, and Bill Kane, Basalt’s former town manager on their aspirations for a council seat.
Do you see a pattern here? That leaves us with a council of all white men – and possibly one white woman.
I had to ask myself, does a potentially all-white majority male town council accurately reflect our diverse Basalt community? The most recent Basalt community stats on the Basalt Chamber’s website note that men and women are split almost equally in our town and nearly a quarter of the population are people of color. This should be more closely reflected in our council as well.
Nothing against white men, I’m married to one and I’m raising two, but in order to have a council that is truly a working representation of our lives, we need to have those who experience different issues with different perspectives every day. Diversity is strength in government and should be a core value in our town’s official makeup. What is the council doing to reach out to the wider community and encouraging civic participation? Seems like they might need a new councilmember to consider and act on that.
It’s been so great to watch the surge in women nationwide engaging in politics since He Who Shall Not Be Named was elected. Engagement began as an act of resistance, and women realized if we want state and national candidates to have issues that matter most to women at the core of their platforms, if we want to be heard, we had to start electing women locally first. So where are those women leaders hiding in Basalt?
I get it, for a lot of women, it’s the fear of the unknown, constant public scrutiny and political toxicity at every turn that deters them from running. And yes, many of us have children and full-time jobs that take up the majority of our lives, but serving on town council means that women – of any age (looking at you Millennials!) – can champion a broader agenda – including innovative ideas around improving education, gun violence, domestic violence, workplace harassment, child care, economic growth and the environment, just to name a few.
We can impact mental health programs, support LQBTQ+ rights, and help foster a spirit that Basalt so desperately needs. Our backgrounds as volunteers, communicators and caregivers, and our ability to balance a budget, to stop squabbling and be efficient and focused, are rooted in our DNA. We already have the qualifications to be great leaders.
But just like the lottery, if you don’t play, you can’t win. With seven council seats and four of them up for grabs, it’s time for women and our sisters of color to say, “I can do this.”
Women of Basalt, 2020 is your year to begin a campaign when the race begins in January. And if you’re not sure how to do it, there are a lot of organizations that can help. Emerge Colorado has helped progressive women from Fort Collins to Telluride win seats on their local city and town councils, as well as become state representatives and county commissioners.
According to its website co.emergeamerica.org, they are “changing the face of politics by recruiting, training and providing a powerful network for Democratic women who want to run for office across the state.”
They offer the only in-depth, six-month, 85-hour, training program that provides aspiring women leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system, and participants learn from experts and develop practical knowledge in areas such as public speaking, fundraising, campaign strategy, voter contact, media and messaging, ethical leadership, and others. Candidates also meet an array of dynamic women who hold elected and appointed office and become a part of a supportive network.”
Who doesn’t love a good girl gang?
Whether you feel compelled to run for Basalt Town Council, RE-1 school board, or an advisory committee, or if you aspire to a higher seat, or even the highest seat (yes, eventually it will happen), there is no better start than right here in our town, right now.
We will gather the troops and get in formation behind you. Come on ladies, persist, resist and run.