Hart Beat

Civic-minded Sunnyside women, now's your chance

Sunnyside's civic-minded women are needed.

I know you are out there, because we've talked. We've talked about all the ways to make Sunnyside a better place in which to live and raise our families.

I know you are involved in more than your career, your family and church. I know you are actively organizing neighborhood block watches, beautification projects, volunteering on community enhancement committees and a myriad of other things which help make this town our home.

Now more than ever, your talents are needed. By stepping up you will be joining a select group of outstanding Sunnyside women who deserve a place in the annals of history.

I'd do it myself, but it would be a conflict of interest for me. It's hard to set policy and then turn around and report on it for the newspaper, not that I wouldn't like to give it a try. But I remember how hard it was for former Daily Sun News Editor Ginger Steffen-Buchmiller to keep separate her civic duties from her journalistic principles. She did a tremendous job on the Sunnyside City Council in the early 1970s, while serving as the head of the newspaper.

I have already taken my turn in the government pool in Mabton during the mid-1970s. So, I do know how hard Steffen's position was, but I'd do it again if I could. So, you'll understand when I say that until I retire from the newspaper, I can't apply to be Sunnyside's next councilwoman.

But I sure would like to see one of you give it a shot. We don't want to miss our opportunity to again have more than one woman on the Sunnyside City Council.

In fact, I think the last time two women served on the council at the same time was when both Elaine Snow and the late Irene Berk served on the council in the early 1990s.

The current opening on the council was made when former Councilman Alex de la Cruz moved on. That empty seat is calling rational and intelligent women to step up and join Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar as a voice of reason on the council.

As of Thursday afternoon, only seven people requested applications for the vacancy to be considered by the council possibility as soon as its July 26 meeting. Of the those seven, only three are women - all good candidates, and at least one is a businesswoman.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that more women are needed to serve in the elected positions in our community. We need to have more women like the late Mrs. W.H. Harrison, who earned newspaper headlines in the 1930s as the first Sunnyside woman to be elected to the Sunnyside School Board over two men "in a spirited though one-sided" election.

We need more women like the late Ruth Mottley, who earned a place in history as the second woman to serve on the Sunnyside School Board and as its chair for a number of years. Her list of achievements also includes founding the Sunnyside Museum, and serving on the Yakima Valley Community College Board of Trustees as its chair.

We need more women like Dottie Aiken-Dickinson, who now serves on the Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Board, after serving a number of years as a YVCC trustee.

We need more women like Joanne Kilian, who has served more than 20 years on the Sunnyside School Board and most of those years she has also been its chair.

I know we have more women like these women and need them to step up now.

Sunnyside has had only nine women serve on the Sunnyside City Council in more than 100 years of city government. That record is deplorable.

Here it is 2004, and we only have nine women currently serving on the many advisory boards which give advice to the city's elected officials, and only one as a councilwoman.

I'm telling you, we need more women on the other advisory boards, such as the civil service board, the board of adjustment and the Sunnyside Housing Authority board. We need to take those skills we use to run our homes, jobs and businesses in such a well-organized, orderly and courteous fashion to the halls of government.

We have a beautiful, exciting history to uphold, but we do our pioneer grandmothers a huge disservice if we don't carry on their well-laid plans for a community where we all can live in harmony.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com


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