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Recent elections tip gender balance in local city governments with change in Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville councils

SUBMITTED PHOTO - LUEBAs ballots continued to roll in on election night, Tigard City Council candidate Heidi Lueb remarked that not only was she humbled to be elected to a full four-year term, her victory was also part of a notable collective achievement.

"It's going to be the first time that the Tigard council is going to be majority-female," said Lueb, who was appointed to her position in 2019 when Jason Snider became mayor. She was elected, along with newcomer Jeanette Shaw, to a full term on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Lueb and Shaw were the top vote-getters in a field of seven that also included Marc Woodard, a former Tigard city councilor and mayoral candidate. Lueb and Shaw were the only candidates in the race to receive more than 10,000 votes, with Woodard placing a distant third.

'This is new'

If there have ever been three women on the Tigard City Council at the same time, it hasn't happened at least in the last 40 years, according to Liz Newton, who will serve with Tigard City Council's two other female councilors.

"I don't recall in my history — and I started there in 1980 — I don't think we ever had a majority of women on the council," said Newton, who worked for the city government for 37 years, culminating with a stint as assistant city manager, before retiring and running for office. "This is new."

Tigard's neighbor to the south has reached an even more significant milestone, where the Nov. 3 election brought three newly elected council members: Valerie Pratt, Christen Sacco and Cyndy Hillier. They will join Maria Reyes, Bridget Brooks and Council President Nancy Grimes to comprise an all-female Tualatin City Council, aside from Mayor Frank Bubenik.

Pratt ran for her first full term after being appointed in 2019. Sacco and Hillier take seats being vacated by Councilors Robert Kellogg and Paul Morrison, with Sacco running unopposed and Hillier defeating Alex Thurber by a 9-point margin on Nov. 3.

Tualatin City Manager Sherilyn Lombos said when she was interviewing for her position in 2006, there were seven men on the council. However, just before she started, a woman was appointed to fill a vacancy and another female councilor soon followed.

"As of January 2021, there will be six women and one man on the Tualatin City Council; unprecedented!" Lombos wrote in an email.

"I will miss Robert and Paul but look forward to working with Christen and Cyndy next year," said Mayor Bubenik. "I learned at the National League of Cities that as more women are elected to office, there is a corollary increase in policymaking that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities. All of these priorities are important to Tualatin residents."

Pratt said the significance of the moment isn't lost on her, either.SUBMITTED PHOTO - SHAW

"The realization that Tualatin's City Council will be comprised entirely of women immediately brought to mind the wonderful and notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom we recently lost," said Pratt. "When she was asked the question of when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court bench, her response answer was, 'When there are nine.'"

Pratt said the response "points out that the qualifications to serve in a leadership role should be based on ability without regard to gender."

Pratt continued: "The fact that it is still unprecedented that our City Council will be comprised entirely of women gives us an unique opportunity to effectively work together, not only for the betterment of our community, but also to set an example that helps to normalize this dynamic and provide encouragement to willing individuals of all genders to participate in public service."

'Women deserve to be there'

Still, Tualatin has a pretty progressive record when it comes to women in city government.

Yvonne Addington, who is still actively involved with the preservation of Tualatin's history, recalled being appointed by an all-male city council, serving as Tualatin's recorder and the city's first municipal judge in 1967. From 1969 to 1981, she served as city administrator/manager.

Addington said her recollection is that the International City Manager Association recorded only 32 female city managers in the United States during some portion of the 1970s.

"Even though I now live south of Sherwood and 4 miles from Tualatin, my comparison with other communities is perhaps why I have continued to donate much of my retired time to my hometown of Tualatin," said Addington. "Both men and women have done a good job. I am proud of them."

Tualatin's neighbor to the south, the city of Wilsonville, will also have a female majority on its City Council.

Wilsonville voters on Nov. 3 elected Julie Fitzgerald as their next mayor, succeeding Tim Knapp, who was term-limited. They also re-elected Council President Kristin Akervall and elected Joann Linville, who was appointed to the council in 2019, to a full term.

Councilor Ben West, who lost the mayoral race to Fitzgerald, will be the only man on the five-member council.

Fitzgerald received nearly 58% of the vote in the two-way mayoral race in Wilsonville.

"We will begin 2021 living in a city that is the envy of many for its beauty, safety, strong economic base, beautiful parklike neighborhoods, respect for natural resources and commitment to inclusivity," said Fitzgerald, a former city councilor who is currently executive director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation. "As mayor, I look forward to making our city even better and protecting its unique livability. I will lead a productive council with strong representation from each councilor."SUBMITTED PHOTO - PRATT

And to Tigard's north, Beaverton will also have a majority-female council and a woman serving as mayor, for the first time in the city's history (see story, page A1). Mayor-elect Lacey Beaty will lead the council as it expands to seven voting members in 2021, with Councilors-elect Nadia Hasan and Alison Tivnon joining Council President Laura Mitchell on the body.

When asked about what the female majority on the Beaverton City Council means for the future of local politics, Beaty replied, "It means we have a voice at the table."

However, Beaty was quick to add, "I don't think anyone asked that question when it was all men. To treat something other as normal is a disservice to every young woman in this community, because women deserve to be there."

Women will also hold majorities on the Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah county commissions — on the latter, filling all four seats.

In Tigard, Newton said what she's looking forward to is continuing to have councilors who are committed to the deliberation process of the council's decision-making process.

"But I'm most excited about working with folks who might have a different perspective than I do," she added.

Newton noted that different viewpoints are important, noting that as a chief financial officer at her company, Lueb is a "numbers person," while as a former planner and former assistant city manager, she looks at things a little differently. SUBMITTED PHOTO - BEATY

Newton said everyone brings unique perspectives to the table "and women tend to experience things a little bit differently, especially in the professional world."

Shaw, who will be serving on the Tigard City Council for the first time, credited past Oregon leaders for having provided inspiration for her and others. She named former Gov. Barbara Roberts, state Sen. Ginny Burdick of Portland, and outgoing state Rep. Margaret Doherty of Tigard among the women whose "pioneering groundwork and respective achievements" have opened the doors wide for women to serve in government office.

Because of them, Shaw said, "Women, such as myself, have many more opportunities and that includes running for office and being seen as leaders in our respective communities."

She concluded, "We bring a wealth of diverse experiences and expertise, which often includes understanding, compromise, collaboration, and, when possible, a unity which I believe the electorate wants now for their cities."

Corey Buchanan and Gabby Urenda contributed to this report.

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