Women back on city council

By Tim Ruzek

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Tuesday’s election is putting women back into local government.

Two female candidates won election to seats on the Austin City Council, with terms starting in January.

In her second try, Janet Anderson won the at-large council spot — a citywide-elected position — and Marian Clennon took the most votes for the 3rd Ward race.


The 2006 elections made the Austin City Council and Mower County Board all male for the first time since 1976.

One of the changing races in ’06 was Tom Stiehm winning election to his first term as mayor over Norm Hecimovich. He replaced Bonnie Rietz, the city’s first female mayor, who didn’t seek a sixth term.

The council has seven members, not including the mayor, and the county board has five.

Overall, five women sought election this year for council or county board.

Two years ago, Anderson missed out on winning the at-large race by 17 votes to incumbent Pete Christopherson, who didn’t run for re-election this year.

After hearing she won election Tuesday, Anderson said she believes, as a woman, that she’ll bring a different perspective that the council has been lacking.

Clennon said that it’s good to mix things up and get different perspectives.

"Women have different questions than guys do," Clennon said.


Clennon said she and Anderson have been attending council meetings and are excited to start.

Julie Tufte, president of the Austin Area’s League of Women Voters group, this week said she’s pleased voters added two women to the city council.

"I think women bring a different perspective to the table," Tufte said, "which helps round out the entire decision-making process."

Anderson and Clennon also will bring a "wealth of experience and background that will serve the city well," Tufte said.

Before the past two years, the last time Austin had an all-male council and a man as mayor was in 1985, but that lasted only a few months until Ruth Rasmussen was appointed to fill a council vacancy.

Prior to that, Donna Robbins served as the city’s first female council member from 1977 to 1984.

The Mower County Board, however, is remaining all male for at least two years, barring the need to appoint someone. The county has had one female county board member in its history.

Mary Keenan, an Austin resident who ran for the city council’s at-large spot this year, served from 1983 to 1990 on the county board.


Until this year, the last female candidate for the board was in 2002.

Sarah Douty and Kathy Stutzman ran this year for different board seats.

Douty lost to incumbent Ray Tucker for the District 2 seat; Stutzman was eliminated in the Sept. 9 primary for the District 1 seat.

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