Few Trail women involved in municipal politics

A century of Silver City politics, and still no woman in the mayor's seat.

A century of Silver City politics, and still no woman in the mayor’s seat.

Granted there’s only been one Trail woman throw her chapeau into the ring (Doris Robinson in 1922) by now one might think it’s time for a female to take the lead.

Looking at Greater Trail’s surrounding communities, excluding Warfield, all have quite long histories of a woman elected to the top seat as well as a number of females serving council.

Joan Lakes was the first and only woman Mayor of Montrose, and the first female regional district chair after she was voted into her three-year position in 1994.

By the end of her political career, Lakes served in local politics for a decade, seven years as Montrose councillor before her one term as mayor.

“When I ran for mayor I ran against two men,” Lakes said. “And I got more votes than the two of them together,” she chuckled. “That’s going back a long way but I was pretty gungho about what I wanted for this village.”

Lake had an empty nest when she was mayor, but recalled the job’s heavy time commitment that included meetings at least four nights a week on top of a demanding schedule as board chair at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

“I know a lot of people think that in a small village there are no issues,” she said. “Our budget is a pittance next to the larger cities,” Lake explained. “But I remember giving a speech at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (annual conference). After I finished, I had a man from Toronto saying ‘you know we have the same issues’ except on a smaller scale.”

Another Beaver Valley community with females leading the way is Fruitvale.

The village’s first woman, Libby Nelson, held the mayoral seat from 1996 to 2011 and since then Fruitvale Mayor Patricia Cecchini has held the position, once through election and this year by acclamation.

Notably, females have been part of Fruitvale politics since 1961, which was only six years after the village’s incorporation in 1952.

Since that time woman have quite consistently sat on council, and in the last two terms held the balance of power with three female councillors and a female mayor.

The ratio of female politicians on a national scale are considerably higher than the Lower Columbia region, with the exception of Fruitvale.

Across Canada 16 per cent of mayoral seats are filled by women and 26 per cent of councillors seats are occupied by females.

Besides no female mayor, there’s only been a handful of female councillors elected since Trail was incorporated in 1901.

That could lead to the question of why so few women step forward to take on a political role.

According to one former councillor, Elizabeth Cytra, serving on city council for three years was a difficult experience that she has no desire to repeat.

“Things are changing a bit now and I think women a getting better jobs than I was given,” she said of her 1996 to 1999 term. “If I had a good thing to say, they’d always say you need to stay home and do your cooking – that was the attitude, is what I mean. “

Aside from historical patriarchalism, Cytra maintains it would take a very tenacious woman to serve the position because the mayor has only one vote.

“I don’t think women haven’t run because they don’t want to,” she said. “But you have to sit there and only have one vote, so it takes an awfully strong woman to sway them to vote your way. Talking from 20 years ago, if you had a good idea, they would say it’s just a woman thing.”

Leadership is an action item, it’s not passive, Cytra added. “I really think we need to look for qualified people for the job. There’s a lot of qualified women out there who want an equal chance and we need to encourage them to run.”

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