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Female political candidates share election experiences

A panel of five local political candidates share their perspectives on being women in elected positions. The participants included, from left, former Wadena County commissioner Mary Harrison, Park Rapids mayor Nancy Carroll, former Thorpe Township supervisor Fran Laske, Menahga School Board member Sheila Parvi and former Hubbard County commissioner candidate Sally Shearer. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

"Why do women matter?"

That was the question posed to five local women with political experience Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters, in collaboration with The Whitehouse Project, hosted a workshop about women running for public office Wednesday in Park Rapids.

Nevada Littlewolf, a Virginia city councilwoman and Rural Leadership field organizer with The White House Project, lead the workshop.

The non-partisan organization works to train and recruit women to run for office.

Local elected officials were invited to attend and share their experiences of deciding to run for office, running for office and actually holding office.

A panel of five local women with political experience addressed the question "Why do women matter?"

The participants were Park Rapids mayor Nancy Carroll, former commissioner candidate Sally Shearer, former Thorpe Township supervisor Fran Laske, former Wadena County commissioner Mary Harrison and Menahga School Board member Sheila Parvi. State Rep. Brita Sailer called briefly to speak with the group.

Harrison said that when she ran for commissioner she enjoyed going out and knocking on doors. That's what helped her to win, she said.

"People vote on what they're most afraid of at the time," Harrison said. "You need to run on goals, not an agenda."

She was pestered to run for commissioner by someone else on the county board.

Littlewolf said it's often the case that women need to be asked to run for office.

"I was asked by four people to run for council," she said.

Carroll said she was first appointed to the Park Rapids City Council as a council member. Later, she ran for mayor.

Littlewolf asked Carroll if she thought being a woman added perspective to the council.

Carroll gave an example of pushing for parks to be a priority in the city and the need for strategic planning.

Laske said that when she was on the Thorpe Township board the members were all women.

"We were so small, there weren't any big problems," she said.

Being on the board was a tremendous learning experience, Laske said.

"I never would have thought I'd be involved in politics," she said.

Parvi said that when she first mentioned running for school board in Menahga, her husband questioned whether she should. She ended up running, though, and was elected.

"I've found that the best thing is to listen," she said.

Also, taking classes and studying the issues is important.

Shearer ran for Hubbard County commissioner twice but was not elected.

"You can't take it personally," she said.

Voters often have a few specific issues they consider and have their mind made up, she said.

Littlewolf said she thinks women can add some perspective to local government because they often handle their own family's budgets and are organized.

She encouraged each person who attended to think of five women they could ask to run for an elected position. She briefly explained what it takes to run a successful campaign.

For more information about The White House Project, e-mail or write to Nevada Littlewolf, PO Box 495, Virginia, MN 55792.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561