Moms, it’s your time9/4/2013
Bugs Bunny broke the news. Not the cartoon, but this wonderful plastic transistor radio shaped like the silly rabbit. No trick for this kid. That radio worked. For ball games. Bee Gees songs, maybe a Gerald Ford comment here and there — whatever was happening in 1975, when I was 6 years old, living in Indianola.
My grandfather was still alive, running the newspaper I write for and co-own in Carroll, so we hadn’t joined the family firm yet. That would come four years later after his death.
But on this fall night, adults gathered early in the evening at our home near the Simpson College campus where my father taught music theory and organ. Mom and Dad dispatched me upstairs, to the company of Bugs — and the local AM station.
My mother, Ann Wilson, now the publisher of The Daily Times Herald in Carroll, found herself in a three-candidate race for two seats on the Indianola Community School Board.
As a grade-schooler, I thought the world might crash into Jupiter if Mom lost this campaign. How can anyone vote against my mom?
I laid nervously in bed as the school-board-election results arrived. Mom, then 34, earned one of those school board seats that night. Bugs, no doubt, smiled as I jumped around on the mattress.
Mom’s the only elected official we’ve had in the modern era of the Wilson family. My grandfather, James W. Wilson, a Barry Goldwater man, failed in a bid as Republican for a Statehouse seat here in Carroll when the county bled blue, such was the weight of the Democratic imbalance during his half-century in the area.
I thought about mom’s election night — the first election I can recall — as the filing period recently opened for Carroll City Council seats.
On the 17 local policy-making elected seats for the City of Carroll (six on the council, the mayor’s slot, five county supervisors and five Carroll Community School Board members) resides but a lone female, Carroll City Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann.
Over the years, living in a state that joins Mississippi in the ignominious distinction of never having elected a woman as governor, to the U.S. Senate or House, I’ve talked to hundreds of politicians and academics and voters about gender bias, strategy, demographics and other confounding factors for female candidates.
Lately, though, around here, what I’m hearing from women is that they don’t want to run, can’t do it, because there’s not time. They are worried that somehow they’ll be something less to the children — less available, less energetic, less focused, less mommy.
All of which is spectacularly well-intentioned and, oddly, remarkably hard to challenge.
But it’s just dead wrong.
The mom who runs for a local office is so much more to her kids the moment she files the papers, puts her name on the line.
She’s an in-home civics lesson. She’s the embodiment of triumph of courage in one’s ideas over fear of the public square and the humiliation and defeat entrants to it risk.
Her kids see her fighting for them, to make their schools and town better. It inspires kids to expect more from themselves, to strive in the classroom, to see the world outside of the self.
So enough with the nonsense excuses. The best thing a mom can do for her kids is to run for the school board or council or supervisors.
Most communities have an overarching strategy to be attractive for young families. For this to work, to take full and real form, graduate from the cleverly crafted words of shelved strategic-planning documents, we need moms in rooms that matter.
So moms, it’s your time.
Take out those nomination papers. Run for office.
Win or lose, the kids will know mom is no mere spectator.
And that, knows this grateful son, is a priceless gift.
Even if I did hear it from Bugs Bunny. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.