Woodside needs a wake-up call: Why no women are running for 4 open council seats
My husband and I have lived in Woodside for over three decades, and raising our family here has been a dream come true. As a natural extension of my love for our community, I spent nine productive years as a volunteer, first by joining the General Plan Task Force, and continuing as a twice-appointed member of both the Architectural & Site Review Board (ASRB), and the Open Space Committee. It was a privilege and an honor to work with neighbors to identify productive, realistic solutions that balanced residents’ dreams, and needs for construction efficiency, while maintaining our town’s rustic charm.
Through this process, I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about how our town government operates. But the outcome of it is evident in the fact that we currently have 4 council seats open and no women are running.
When I began volunteering in Woodside, things were quite different. At the time I was appointed to the General Plan Task Force, the female volunteer population was strong. At the time I left, at least a half dozen long-term, knowledgeable, and productive women had resigned because of the lack of respect shown for their work.
One leader of the effort to undermine and marginalize women spent some time on the town council. Not only did he actively work to undermine women, but he strove mightily to undermine the town committees that they served on. He specifically targeted two female members of the ASRB and a sitting female planning commissioner, filling their seats with his male cronies. His destructive efforts created an unhealthy dynamic between volunteers and council members, and set up a false dichotomy that there should only be one vision for Woodside, with those who disagree being silenced.
Unfortunately, the few female decision makers in the town were either not aware of or not up to the task of speaking out against the flagrant discounting and demeaning of other women in the community.
It boggles the mind that a town in Silicon Valley, in 2018, would have an all-male town council. Woodside needs a wake-up call. Elected officials and staff should aspire to include a variety of perspectives to develop the best outcomes for our community, not simply create an echo-chamber for the most powerful.
As a public agency, the Town should foster open discussion and embrace diverse perspectives. There’s no harm in honest disagreement or animated dialogue. Public discourse breaks down when volunteers are thwarted from expressing their views, no matter how unpopular they may be.
Woodside needs a wide variety of community members who will continue to volunteer in order to define long-term priorities for our town. Here in Woodside, as in the country at large, democracy can only thrive when individuals are willing to put themselves in the public eye. An updated ethics code has been achieved. A reaffirmation of a commitment to respectful public dialogue is an essential next step for our community.
The time I spent volunteering for Woodside was immensely fulfilling. But being a woman voicing support for our town’s guiding documents became a liability for a time, and so did the ability of the council to listen to the public. I’m hopeful that this new election cycle will bring more honorable leadership, but even if it does there is an imbalance here that won’t be righted until great changes are made.
Nancy Reyering is a former member of the Town of Woodside’s Architectural and Site Review Board.