Submitted by: Nancy Swartz, Founder Greater Arlington/Mansfield Democratic Women
We invited two city council women, Arlington incumbent Kathryn Wilemon (R) and Kathleen Hicks (D) Fort Worth (city and county offices are non-partisan but if you are involved, you know who is who). Hicks stepped down from city council to run for the newly created Democratic Congressional District 33 won by Congressman Marc Veasey and is now running to recapture her Fort Worth city council seat.
Greater Arlington/Mansfield Democratic Women exemplified its local mission to “support Democratic Principles by becoming involved with the political process” and its TDW mission to “promote increased political activity and influence of Democratic women in Texas politics and government” at a recent monthly meeting. We wanted our members to hear from women who have successfully run for local office. Have you asked yourself how would you do that? Others may disagree but local experience is a strong foundation for building a successful run for state and national office.
These women took similar but divergent paths. Kathryn Wilemon got involved over 30 years ago because her mother was involved in the community. Wilemon is a founding member of the Women’s Division of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. After raising a family, she applied to the Tarrant County Hospital Board and served on boards and commission thereafter. In 2003, she sat around a table with a group of people discussing who should run for city council – why not you, Kathryn, someone said? So she did and she has been running ever since.
Kathleen Hicks is the daughter of Maryellen Hicks, a Tarrant County judge elected in 1983, and a pioneer in local politics as one of the first African-American judges. A single parent, Judge Hicks brought her daughter to political meetings. Hicks began her political career as a city council aid and later chaired the Women’s Commission for the City of Fort Worth. At the age of 31 she ran her first race and the following year in 2005 was elected to city council outvoting two male opponents.
Some advice from these successful leaders – get to know your district and its constituents. If you want to serve, begin by getting involved in local boards, commissions and women’s groups. Women are vastly underrepresented in influential and leadership roles. Be prepared and get ready to run.
- Running for local office is very tough for women, especially, women of color.
- If you speak out you are labeled a “bitch” instead of recognized as being a strong woman candidate.
- Your personal life is scrutinized if you are not married.
- People will give less money to women than to men.
- Women have to be thick-skinned.