By: Lynne King Smith
Yes, elections do matter.
I used to say that national and state elections mattered the most—after all, they make the laws and interpret and enforce the laws that affect us the most. We’re all very aware of the truth of this right now with the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Local elections are often overlooked, as things like traffic, parks or development seem less pressing. If things are basically working well, then why get informed and involved?
I jumped into local politics in 2020 with a run for mayor in Gilbert. I spent hours learning about how the budget process works, talking to police and fire chiefs, and immersing myself in the economic development side of things. Nothing too controversial, and issues that I found I had aptitude for with my business experience.
And then, enter COVID. And Black Lives Matter marches. And masking wars. And cries to defund the police. Families were under stress, and in particular, women, as we all struggled to get through a day at a time.
My calls to residents changed quickly, and I found that people were looking for local leaders to have answers, provide comfort and move quickly to support their ever-changing needs. We had food drives in what is usually an affluent community.
Our local elections can be overshadowed by the “big issue” elections; and yet, decisions made at the local level affect us much more quickly. For example, a large chunk of federal funds for small businesses in Gilbert was not distributed by the Town Council and so they voted to redirect those funds to a municipal budget. It’s true. Recently, Gilbert Vice Mayor Yentes openly opposed the distribution of more federal funds to our residents because she felt it was things like this that are causing the recession.
Okay, so it matters. We have critical issues that affect our families coming up very quickly: A water shortage is being planned for in the near future, housing has become unaffordable for many, including a lack of workforce housing, and some council members and candidates oppose new parks and recreation areas, something that as women (and moms) we all use, love and understand the value they bring.
We just elected 4 new council members here in Gilbert in a primary election that many folks didn’t know they should be paying attention to. One of the best things about local politics is the access you can have as a resident to the candidates. Thrive was proud to sponsor and host our first Candidate Forum on July 25th where Thrive members and local women submitted questions, and had the chance to meet the candidates and hear their answers.
The issues important to women as the forum’s focus gave this event a different feel and depth than others. Councilmember Scott September wrote us and said, “I want to thank you for holding this forum and commend you on hosting a forum with the broadest questions and deepest conversations of any I attended during this campaign season. The format of asking different questions to different candidates provided opportunity to cover more topics and the pop quiz was a great way to quickly narrow the scope for the audience and candidates both. Brilliant, well done.”
One of the best moments was Councilmember-Elect Bill Spence being asked a question about how local elected officials could support a woman’s right to choose around the recent Roe v Wade court decision. He emphasized that he thinks men should not be making those decisions and that we should all be working to elect more women to state and federal offices.
Yes! We agree!