Alderman questions male-dominated council, leadership spots
Park Ridge Alderman Jim Smith says the city is giving the impression it is gender-biased due to the hiring of male department heads and the lack of females on the City Council. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2012 10:38AM
PARK RIDGE — One Park Ridge alderman thinks the city might be giving the impression that it is gender-biased.
Third Ward Alderman Jim Smith told the City Council on Nov. 7 that the public might find it “suspicious” that two exiting city department heads, Finance Director Allison Stutts and Human Resources Director Cathy Doczekalski, are being replaced by male employees, leaving the city without any female department leaders. He added that the City Council selected a man, Shawn Hamilton, as interim city manager following the departure of a female acting city manager.
Smith also pointed to the make-up of the City Council which, with the exception of City Clerk Betty Henneman, is made up entirely of men.
“For certain suspicious minds, all of these facts add up to something they are very uncomfortable with,” Smith said.
Mayor David Schmidt told Smith he was offended by his claims.
“If you think you could recruit a female to replace yourself as the 3rd Ward alderman you would be free to resign and maybe that person could step in and take your place,” Schmidt told the alderman.
The mayor also accused Smith of failing to provide factual proof of his claims.
“If you do have some evidence, bring it forward. But I think it’s inappropriate for you to be making accusations against people without having any evidence at all,” Schmidt said.
Smith denied he was making any “charges” against the city.
“I was pointing out there was a pattern here that might look bad to some citizens,” he said.
Second Ward Alderman Rich DiPietro responded to Smith’s statements by naming several female aldermen who have served on the City Council in recent years, adding that it is voters who select their elected officials.
A number of women have also joined the council after running in uncontested races.
The last time women served on the City Council was in 2007. Judy Barclay, who now serves as chairwoman the city’s Historic Preservation Task Force, ran unsuccessfully for 5th Ward alderman when the council was reduced from 14 to seven alderman that year. In 2011 two women, Alana Warren and Lottie Janus, ran in contested races for the 1st and 7th Wards, respectively, but were defeated.
Henneman, who has served as city clerk since 1985 and is also a member of the Park Ridge League of Women Voters, said the League encourages women to run for local public office and through the years several League members have served on the City Council as well.
“We haven’t had many lately, but if you look back in our history we’ve had quite a few (women) on our councils,” she said.
The reason fewer women may be interested in serving these days could be due to the current council environment and difficulties in getting things done, Henneman suggested.
“Women don’t want to waste their time doing things that won’t be effective,” she said. “In the last few years I haven’t seen the council being as effective as it could have been.”
Voters will elect three aldermen in April 2013. Only two candidates, both men, have so far announced plans to run.