Want parity in Congress? Go local: My one-month campaign for  City  Council

Lucy Gettman | Feb 15, 2023


Opportunities to lead politically come from many directions – from the White House to your house. While Washington struggles with polarization and looks to 2024, the immediate action will be on the local and state level in 2023. A handful of states will elect governors, other statewide offices and state legislative seats. There will also be a vast number of municipal elections for Mayor, City Council, Tribal roles and referenda. Here’s my story:

My path started as an elected representative on my local neighborhood commission when I was in my 20s. It wended through the state Capitol, continued to a government relations career in Washington, D.C., then went on to include leading a national association for women state legislators.  Most recently, I was a finalist for appointment to my City Council in January.

Unlike a campaign for elective office, my one-month push for Columbus City Council was for an appointment to fill the final year of an unexpired term. The appointment process is different from an election. Just as the President appoints cabinet members, the City Council is authorized to appoint a replacement for an unexpired term. It was an inclusive process – there was a public call for interested parties to submit an application package, from which a few finalists were selected. As a finalist, I testified publicly before City Council to highlight my qualifications. I spoke with council members individually to explore their priorities and to make my case. I mobilized advice and support from really smart, politically astute women, some of whom I had known since my neighborhood commission days. While I was not ultimately appointed, it was a great experience that created opportunities to pursue my passion – increasing representation of women in public office.  I am exploring other ways to make a difference in my community and for women in particular.

While we celebrate the “firsts” and “mosts” of women in public office, we must acknowledge that women remain vastly underrepresented at every level. We have never had a woman President. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women currently make up only 25% of the U.S. Senate and there are no Black women represented. Only 28.5% of the House of Representatives are women. At the state level, the most consecutive women governors serving is 12, and we have never had a Black woman governor. Women comprise only 32.7% of all state legislators. Locally, 31% of Mayors of large cities with populations of 10,000 population or more are women.

So why go local? Because things can get done in weeks or months rather than years. Because nearly half the members of Congress are former state legislators or other state offices. Local office can not only be more accessible, it is also an essential link in the pipeline to parity in higher office.

Throw your hat in the ring as an appointed or elected leader. Just do it. Wherever you are, you have valuable experience and perspective to inform policy. As a student, working person, parent, advocate and leader, your priorities matter. The first Gen Z member of Congress was sworn in this year. In 2024 it could be you taking the Oath of Office.

There is support for your political ambition. In Ohio, the Matriots have supported hundreds of women running for local and state office. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation and the Women and Politics Institute – creators of Gender on the Ballot – offer multiple opportunities and resources for students and adults to pursue political leadership. There are many others.

Go local and change the world.







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