Four Clark County movers and shakers have joined forces with a political group aimed at electing more women to local government positions.
The four women — Kathy McDonald, Lynn Valenter, Nicki Wann and Stacey Graham — will sit on the nine-person board for The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, a newly created political action committee. The leadership PAC’s mission is to finance and mentor women running in local elections, including city council and mayoral races, as well as provide support for women once they’re in public office.
“Once you’re in office, that can be kind of a lonely place” for women officials, said the group’s president, Lisa Schauer.
With the addition of the new board members, the PAC is positioned to play a tangible role in Vancouver’s local elections, Schauer said.
Graham is president of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, as well as the vice chairwoman of the Vancouver National Historic Trust. She’s held powerful positions at the former First Independent Bank and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, has fundraising and marketing experience, and was acting mayor of Stayton, Ore.
“I would love to have had a resource like this to go to,” Graham said when talking about her time in public office. “It’s important to encourage women to step out into those roles.”
McDonald, an original founder of the PAC, is a property rights advocate who worked as a staff member for former Southwest Washington U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, a Republican. McDonald has managed political campaigns and also chairs the board for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Valenter is vice chancellor of finance and operations at Washington State University Vancouver. Wann has chaired the PAC for the Building Industry Association, has served on the board of the PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Foundation, and has worked at her husband’s homebuilding company, Pacific Lifestyle Homes.
Women hold none of the six county partisan seats of assessor, sheriff, prosecutor, treasurer, auditor and clerk, and the three Clark County commissioners are men. Additionally, Vancouver has never elected a woman as mayor.
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle — H-RoC PAC for short — is named for the old adage, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” The group began informally in 2010, when about a dozen local women began regular meetings over cocktails. In 2011, the committee assembled its board and registered as a PAC with the state.
The group supports candidates of any party who see the importance of economic development for the region, including the Columbia River Crossing project, Schauer said.
“Our focus is trying to ensure we have folks that are economically development-minded,” Schauer said. “We want this community to thrive.”
While there might be a better support network for men seeking public office, H-RoC hopes to even the playing field. Schauer said the group isn’t focused on replacing all men in public office with women, but it is focused on giving women a stronger voice in the community, as well as promoting bipartisanship and civil discourse.
The group played a role in helping to elevate Clark Public Utilities candidate Julia Anderson to the 2012 general election ticket, after she edged out several other candidates in the primary. Anderson ultimately lost the general election to Jim Malinowski.
Schauer said the leadership PAC will probably focus its efforts this election year on Vancouver city council races or the Vancouver mayoral race, she said.
The PAC’s new board members join five others on the board: former Democratic Clark County commissioner and state legislator Betty Sue Morris; former Clark Public Utilities Commissioner Carol Curtis; financial planning firm owner Heidi Johnson Bixby; Oregon Early Learning System director Jada Rupley; and Schauer, the first female partner at MacKay & Sposito, a civil engineering and land surveying firm in Vancouver.
“We’re made up of a lot of women with a lot of different political philosophies and points of view,” Graham said. “In today’s political climate, if you can step out of your individual political philosophy to look at the greater good of the community, that’s important.”
The group has three membership levels at $100, $250 and $500. Those donating at least $250 can help ratify candidate endorsements, and those donating at least $500 gain more access to the candidate endorsement process and other public policy events.
Schauer says H-RoC has no intention of getting involved in statewide or nationwide campaigns. For more information, visit the leadership PAC’s website at http://www.H-RoC.org.