Yesterday and today

This month is Women’s History Month, and this past Wednesday we recognized International Women’s Day.

If you look at the history of Pierce County, you will be amazed at some of the women who blazed trails for the women leaders we have today.

Authors Deb Freeman and Michael Ann Konek wrote a book titled “Leading Ladies: Twenty-one of Tacoma’s Women of Destiny.”  Three of them stood out to me.  Clara Antoinette McCarty Wilt (born in Steilacoom, lived as a child in Sumner, and as an adult in Tacoma) was the first graduate of the University of Washington (then called the Territorial University) and the first woman to hold public office (Superintendent of Pierce County Schools). Tacoma philanthropist Franke Tobey Jones was a key backer of what is now the University of Puget Sound and the retirement home that bears her name near Pt. Defiance. And Gretchen Kunigk Fraser was the first North American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal in skiing – I have a book describing her achievement in my office. And there are many more women with tremendous accomplishments – like two-time gold medal winner at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, swimmer Megan Quann (now Jendrick)!  Megan graduated from Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup and now lives in Buckley.

In Pierce County government, we are fortunate to have strong representation and leadership from smart, committed women. In fact, most of our department directors are women.  And many of them were hired into roles previously held by men. I’d like to give a shout out to Betty Capestany (Economic Development), Constance White (Clerk of the Superior Court), Heather Moss (Human Services), Jen Tetatzin (Planning and Public Works), Jody Ferguson (Emergency Management), Judy Archer (Human Resources), Karen Cline-Parhamovich (Medical Examiner), Libby Catalinich (Communications), and Roxanne Miles (Parks).  They lead departments that provide key services to our residents, balancing competing demands, innovating, and collaborating.  Thank you all for your leadership!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our women county-wide elected officials, including Auditor Linda Farmer and Prosecutor Mary Robnett. They are critical leaders with direct responsibility for foundational services to our residents.

Lastly, I want to recognize the three women currently serving on the County Council – councilmembers Amy Cruver, Jani Hitchen and Robyn Denson.  I thought that having three women on Council was a record but, as you will see from the video below, there was a time in the late 80’s when there were four women on the dais!

My thanks to the councilmembers and the indomitable 90-year-old Cathy Pearsall-Stipek for sharing their time and perspectives with us.

Before I close, I want to be sure to invite you to watch my annual State of the County Address next Wednesday, March 15 at noon. It may be the Ides of March, but I will have plenty to say about not only where we face challenges but also where we’ve made some good strides.  You can watch the livestream at this link.

Thanks for reading,