Women to take 4-1 advantage on Roseville City Council

From the Sacramento Bee - December 8, 2012

"Each of them worked their way up to the council," said Doug Elmets, who runs a local communications and consulting firm. "The fact that four of them happen to be women is simply an irony because they are all outstanding in their own right."

 

When newcomer Bonnie Gore is sworn in Monday, there will be just one man on the five-member Roseville City Council.

The no-frills ceremony will also install Susan Rohan – the top vote-getter in the 2010 election – as mayor and Carol Garcia – who got the most votes this year – as vice mayor.

Mindy Romero, director of the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Center, said councils with a female majority are rare.

While progress has been made, "Women are still very underrepresented," Romero said.

That is not an issue in Roseville these days.

Rohan and Garcia will be the city's third and fourth consecutive female mayors.

Unlike many cities where the mayor is elected directly, rotated or picked internally, in Roseville the council candidate with the most votes in the at-large election assumes the mayorship after a two-year incubation as vice mayor.

The November election was a sweep for female candidates, who won all three of the contested seats in the seven-person council race. The four candidates they beat out were all men.

Local political observers say there is no grand feminist conspiracy at work, just an impressive collection of smart women who put in the work before announcing their candidacies.

"Each of them worked their way up to the council," said Doug Elmets, who runs a local communications and consulting firm. "The fact that four of them happen to be women is simply an irony because they are all outstanding in their own right."

Romero said the numbers suggest that women are as likely as men to win political races, but less likely to throw their hats in the race. She said women generally have less access to the networks that support and encourage political participation and aid in electoral success.

But in Placer County's largest city, women are rising through the ranks of civic commissions and are active members of the chamber of commerce – which is also headed by a woman.

Pauline Roccucci, who completes her term as mayor Monday but was re-elected to the council, is a veteran political figure who served on numerous boards and commissions before taking elective office.

Rohan spent a decade on county and city bodies, including the Placer County Economic Development Board, before her 2010 election victory. Garcia was on the city's utility commission when she was plucked to fill a vacancy in 2007. In addition to Gore's work with the chamber, she's been serving on various city boards since 2002.

Rohan said the city commissions are like a baseball farm team, preparing the next generation of city leaders. Commission service helps active citizens to scoop up endorsements during the campaign and to hit the ground running once elected.

"It gives a lot more people, including women, (an opportunity) to try out and get some experience," Rohan said.

Unlike the one female candidate in the eight-member Rocklin City Council race and the two women in the nine-member Lincoln race, the three women in the Roseville race boasted the most experience and were the presumptive front-runners.

None of the female candidates in Rocklin or Lincoln won a seat in the 2012 election. The five-member Rocklin council has one woman, and there are no women on the five-member Lincoln council.

Roseville's lone male council member is Tim Herman.

Roseville's first female council member and mayor was June Wanish. She was elected in 1978 – 30 years after Belle Cooledge became Sacramento's first female mayor.

It was another 10 years before Roccucci's first stint as Roseville's mayor in 1989. Since then, women have served in the role on a fairly regular basis. Since the late 1990s, having one or two women on the council has been commonplace. In 2008 the gender balance tipped to 3-2.

Elected women improve democracy by bringing a different perspective to the table on various issues, Romero said. Increased numbers on the national level start with skilled female candidates running and winning at the local level.

This year saw a record number of women in the U.S. Senate (20), but the number of women in the California Legislature declined.

"One of the reasons we don't see that many women on the state level or in Congress is that you don't have that many on the local level," she said. "We are not going to get more women in Congress if we are not filling those feeder networks."

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