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3 moms, 3 city council seats: What’s prompting more women, including St. Louisans, to run for office

Local residents (from left) Heather Silverman, Jami Dolby and Kara Wurtz recently ran for city council seats in Creve Coeur, Chesterfield and Kirkwood, respectively.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Local residents (from left) Heather Silverman, Jami Dolby and Kara Wurtz recently ran for city council seats in Creve Coeur, Chesterfield and Kirkwood, respectively.

“Last year I marched, but this year I run,” Kara Wurtz told her friends and family this past January 21, the day she launched her campaign as a city council candidate in Kirkwood, Missouri. She’s among an increasing number of women getting involved in politics all across the country and the region.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Wurtz and two other women who recently ran for their respective city councils in Chesterfield, Creve Coeur and Kirkwood, Missouri, about what prompted their candidacies and how they hope to engage in their local communities going forward.

Along with Wurtz, who won a seat in Kirkwood’s race, the panel of guests included Jami Dolby, a Maryville University staff member who lost her bid for a council seat in Chesterfield, and Heather Silverman, a program director for the National Council of Jewish Women and newly elected Creve Coeur council member.

With the results of the April 3 elections still fresh in their minds, they shared their individual reasons for running as well as their insights on some of the links between local and national trends and what it’s like juggling motherhood, work lives and other demands of daily life alongside public service.

Dolby tossed her hat into the Chesterfield race on the first day of filing. Although she didn’t end up victorious, she described her experience as a candidate as a positive one.

“The African-American population in Chesterfield is less than 4 percent,” said Dolby, who is black. “I received 36 percent of the vote, and for me – [race] is always part of the discussion – but I actually don’t think it became a negative part for me. I received a lot of encouragement. I didn’t have any pushback from residents. I didn’t get any offensive comments. People were very supportive.”

When Marsh inquired about their various perspectives and contributions they can bring to local office as mothers, Silverman noted that her experience as a mom to twin boys is likely to come in handy.

“I’m often between them and mediating their issues and things like that,” she said. “And a lot of sitting on a city council is … real estate development. And that is complicated in terms of what’s best for the city, what are the rights of the commercial property owner, and then what’s best for the residents. And so I think that as a mom who spends a good portion of my day mediating these things anyway [between twins], I have a good feel for how to do that.”

Silverman said she thinks that she and other moms can also help challenge what she perceives as a lack of civility in contemporary politics.

“My main focus in life right now is raising children who are good citizens,” she explained. “I do lots of other things. But that is my main goal in life. And one of the reasons I ran for office was to be a good role model to them. And I’m consistently telling them, ‘Say please, say thank you, this is how you’re a good person.’ That reminds me to do it too, and to ensure that I behave that way. And I think moms are a little more tuned into that.”

Wurtz, who is a senior financial analyst at Ascension Health by day, fielded a question from a listener about ongoing discussion of the idea of a city/county merger.

“Kirkwood is really unique out of the municipalities in the fact that we have a lot of self-sufficient things – we have our own electric, our own trash – so it’s always hard for Kirkwood to look at something like that and see how it would benefit us as a city,” she said. “That’s always been something that’s a talking point – you know, how do we somehow bring the city and county together without actually merging the two.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.