A Butcher, a Baker, a Candlestick Maker … but no women are running for Dallas City Council in our neighborhood races.
True, it doesn’t exactly make for a Mother Goose nursery rhyme, but in the City Council races for District 9 and District 10, there are three businessmen, two lawyers, one programmer, one non-profit executive and one musician.
On its face, that’s an interesting assortment of occupations that could provide some diverse perspective on issues facing the White Rock Lake area neighborhoods.
But look again: Every candidate is a man.
Eight candidates in Lakewood, Lake Highlands, White Rock, Casa Linda, but no women?
Our neighborhoods have given rise to many leaders in business and politics — Jeannie Terrilli, Mary Brinegar, Donna Halstead and Mary Poss come to mind.
In fact, every other contested City Council district has at least one woman on the ballot. Seems odd that our neighborhoods do not. Cause for concern?
“I think it’s entirely circumstantial,” says Gloria Tarpley, a Forest Hills resident and chair of the city Planning Commission, perhaps the most visible appointed position in the City of Dallas. Tarpley says she considered running for the Lakewood/East Dallas District 9 open seat that has five candidates in the race.
“In my case, I am often out of town caring for my two parents who are in their 90s and didn’t feel I could do justice to either task if I ran.”
“Besides,” Tarpley says, “gender is very secondary to capability. I want a candidate who is intelligent, connected to the community and able to navigate City Hall. Man or woman.”
Darlene Ellison, community development executive at Veritex Bank and chairman of the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce, made this analogy: “As a businesswoman, I don’t do business with a woman because she is a woman, and I wouldn’t vote for a woman just because she is a woman. I want a candidate that can ably represent me.”
“Our local issues are non-partisan community issues, likes good streets and safe neighborhoods, not gender issues like equal pay. I am all about earned, equal pay, but I just don’t think that this is an issue addressed or resolved at the local level.”
Angela Hunt, an Advocate columnist and former City Council representative for District 14, which includes the M Street and Lower Greenville neighborhoods, and Robin Norcross, the District 10 (Lake Highlands) Park Board representative, agreed the time commitment to serve on the Council looks and feels like a job.
“It’s definitely a full-time job,” Norcross says, “and there is just not enough time in the day if you already have one.”
According to Hunt: “Women are still often the primary care giver for children and parents and balancing career, family and service can be challenging.”
Norcross isn’t concerned that there are no women candidates in her Lake Highlands district, but she says many women leaders “approach challenges differently.” Her experience on the Park Board and other organizations has given her the perspective that “women can be more collegial … and that can be helpful on boards and committees,” Norcross says.
During portions of the time Hunt served on the City Council (2005-2013), there were nine women in the room counting Mayor Laura Miller and City Manager Mary Suhm.
“I don’t see gender being an issue in Dallas elections. In recent years, we’ve had a fairly equitable representation of women and men on the city council, as well as racial diversity. What we’ve lacked are younger council members. Families with small children, as well as younger urban residents, offer a critical — and often, missing — perspectives on important issues like parks and transportation planning.
“The recent council pay increase was a positive step towards increasing and improving our pool of candidates, and I believe it’s the reason we’re seeing younger candidates in this year’s races.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.