By PATRICK L. FANELLI
11/19/2006 - Women are
under-represented in Chautauqua County government,
according to a study released earlier this month by the
Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the
University of Rochester.
The center rated every
county in the state on the number of women elected to
county legislatures, and Chautauqua County received an
‘‘unsatisfactory’’ rating along with 25 other counties
out of a total of 57. Six others received a lower
‘‘Women still have not reached ‘critical
mass’ in local governments,’’ said Nora Bredes, center
director. ‘‘Our study indicates that there’s still much
work that needs to be done for women to reach equal
representation in local government.’’
Chautauqua County legislators, only four are women.
Three of them are from Jamestown — Democrats Victoria
James and Maria Kindberg, and Conservative Tina
Hallquist, representing half of Jamestown’s legislative
delegation. The other is Sallie Pullano,
The study, entitled ‘‘Women Lag as
Local Leaders,’’ did not include any other local
governments, such as town, villages and cities — with
the exception of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester,
Albany and Syracuse.
However, the numbers are
roughly the same all across the Chautauqua County
landscape, according to a count by The Post-Journal.
There are a total of 189 seats on town boards, village
boards and city councils across the county, and only 43,
or 22.75 percent, are occupied by women. Towns rate
worse than villages and cities — 17 percent compared to
37 percent respectively — even though one third of all
town supervisors are women compared to only two out of
That’s in stark contrast to women as a
percentage of registered voters — 52.7 percent,
according to the Chautauqua County Board of
‘It Hasn’t Caught
It’s difficult to pinpoint what the cause
might be, though Mrs. Halquist believes it might be
because many women in Chautauqua County are simply too
busy to run for office.
‘‘I would say women in
our area are struggling. Managing the household and any
additional jobs outside the home as well consumes every
moment they have,’’ said Mrs. Halquist, the mother of
two teenagers. ‘‘You have to have the time, you have to
have the energy and you have to have emotional
And that is a luxury many women might
not be afforded, she added.
Neither Mrs. Halquist
nor Mrs. Pullano believe the political institutions in
Chautauqua County keep women out of politics. Mrs.
Pullano isn’t sure whether women simply don’t want to
run or aren’t actively sought by political
‘‘It can be kind of a tradition and
culture thing,’’ Mrs. Pullano said. ‘‘I think there
hasn’t been a tradition of women in the County
But they both believe Chautauqua
County has more than enough women to do the job. In
fact, Mrs. Halquist believes women run the greater part
of the community — they just do it behind the
See WOMEN On Page A-3
have the women to do it,’’ Mrs. Pullano said. ‘‘It just
hasn’t caught on
There are two
inherent consequences of women’s small role on
legislative bodies, according to Mrs. Bredes — herself a
former county legislator in Suffolk County on Long
‘‘When women are included, it brings a
distinct perspective to government work, and issues that
are left out or are not paid attention to in traditional
government ... become the work of government,’’ Mrs.
Bredes told The Post-Journal.
Issues such as
women’s health, child support, community sustainability
and family life receive more attention when women play a
greater role in the legislative process, Mrs. Bredes
explained. In fact, it wasn’t until women began playing
a greater role that domestic violence safeguards began
taking shape, she said.
The other consequence is
the nature of politics — something women could change,
but something that also deters them from participating
at the same time, according to Mrs.
‘‘Politics is a highly aggressive, very
masculine enterprise,’’ she said, noting the high number
of women in non-profit and philanthropic organizations.
‘‘It’s something that, with the way we’re socialized,
women are uncomfortable with.’’
believes 35 percent is the ‘‘critical mass threshold,’’
where women’s representation is high enough to have a
significant impact on policy. Both Dutchess and
Westchester counties in downstate New York, as well as
New York City itself, received ‘‘A’’ marks with women’s
representation at 35 percent or more.
A total of
11 counties fall within the 25-to-34-percent range, but
women’s representation in the other 44 counties is below
25 percent. The study also found that only three
counties in the state have women as county executives,
and only six have women as their county legislature’s
The study can be found at the
Susan B. Anthony Center For Women’s Leadership Web site
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