Judge urges women to get involved in government

Lt. Gov. Patty Judge urges Iowa women who have never served on a local government board or commission to give it a try.

At her appearance in Creston Thursday as part of "Travel Iowa '09," Judge told reporters local governments are required by new legislation to make good-faith efforts to achieve a gender balance when filling vacancies on local boards and commissions.

The bill passed in the 2009 Iowa Legislature goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Gender balance on state-level boards and commissions has been required for more than 20 years.

Under the new law, local governments that still cannot find a suitable candidate after three months could see the gender balance requirement waived.

"It is an important step forward," Judge said. "It gives communities until 2012 to comply, so there is plenty of lead time. But it is important that we ask people to step forward and seek balance. We've done that on the state level for some time now. I think it does bring diversity into the thought process and conversations, and makes for better decisions."

Serving on local boards and commissions is the first step to careers in politics and public service for many women.

"My first post in elected government was as a state senator," Judge said, "however, in Albia I was always active in our community and served on a number of boards and commissions. Things like county compensation board, the real estate appraisal board, zoning commission. Those kinds of boards and commissions are important to have women step forward and take part.They just have to be encouraged a little bit."

Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, is organizing a conference in September to teach women how to get into policy-making positions and set up networking and mentoring systems. The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women has worked with other organizations to develop a guide for cities and counties on how to strike a gender balance when recruiting for these positions.

For information, see the Web site at www.state.ia.us/dhr/sw.