Kathy Kidder: League of Women Voters looking for good men, women


Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote. The focus was to educate women to be informed citizens who could play active roles in shaping our government.

But just like the Big Ten has 14 teams and the Southeastern Conference extends into Texas, the League of Women Voters is much more than the name implies. The mission has become one of educating all citizens, and in 1974 league membership was expanded to include men.

The Alachua County league currently counts 42 men among its 200 members. The name doesn't keep these men from active participation and even leadership positions within the league. They acknowledge that keeping the 93-year-old name is important because of its history, reputation and recognition

Jim Galloway, retired Santa Fe College faculty member and part-time admissions counselor, coordinated area distribution of 40,000 league education fund nonpartisan voter guides for the 2012 election. He calls the league a “civic cafeteria” because members can choose from a variety of activities.

Jerry Kidder, emeritus professor of soil science at the University of Florida, is treasurer and longtime board member of the Alachua County league. He formerly chaired the natural resources study team, which has presented public programs on water and energy conservation and promoted wise management of natural resources. The team is now piloting a contest to encourage residential water conservation.

When Charlie Allen, emeritus professor of biochemistry at UF, joined the league in 2010, he was attracted to its education team, which is studying the impact of school choice on local public schools. Allen recently authored one of their three comprehensive reports, available at the league's website.

Jim Desjardin joined the league as soon as men were welcomed and has been in the local league since 1996. Desjardin served as editor of the Alachua County league's newsletter from 1996 to 2004, managed the membership database and was the go-to person in those early days of computer use.

The local league has even had a male president. J.T. Frankenberger — former city attorney for Hollywood, Hallandale and Gainesville — served in 1997-98.

Harvey Goldstein, a retired Miami-Dade county judge, co-chairs a “hot topics” discussion group and frequently moderates league candidate forums that give the public the opportunity to see and hear all the candidates before an election.

One such forum is scheduled for Feb. 23 and will feature candidates for the Gainesville city offices of mayor and commission District 4. It will be held at the First United Methodist Church, 419 NE First St., from 1 to 4 p.m.

Strictly nonpartisan, the league does not support or oppose candidates or political parties but does advocate for issues after thorough study.

Although the league is three-tiered with national, state and local levels, it is basically a grassroots organization where local leagues have a dominant voice in proposing studies and legislation.

Issues that grow from the local level after research, focus groups, education and consensus become the topics of education through public programs, publications and a speakers bureau.

Always looking for a few good women and men, the league welcomes new members at any time. For more information, please visit www.lwv-alachua.org.

Kathy Kidder is president of the Alachua County/Gainesville League of Women Voters.

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