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Our View: Let’s hope commissioner’s call for women to run in 2022 is heeded

The five men who make up the 61st Board of Commissioners spoke Tuesday during the annual State of the County event put on by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and, by and large, stuck to territory they’d previously staked out. Important, if familiar, topics were discussed.

One surprise came at the end of the speech made by Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, when he called upon the women of Carroll County to begin considering a run for the Board of County Commissioners the next time the five seats are up for election, in 2022.

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His request was met with sustained applause, coming in a year when the nation is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote via the 19th Amendment. It also came on the same day when a pair of women verbally sparred with four men during a Democratic presidential debate, at one point addressing the question of whether a woman could win the presidency.

Standing on stage at a lectern to the right of where his four fellow, male commissioners were seated, Bouchat spoke for about nine minutes before going into his poignant closing statement.

Carroll County will hire its first fire and emergency services director, strive to preserve 100,000 acres of farmland, and should see more than 1.5 million square feet of land developed for business, the commissioners said in their State of the County address.

“I request everyone to look at the composition of this board that is all male when 51% of the population is female," Bouchat told the audience. "Females have representation on our school board and our state delegation, while the commissioner board has none. Therefore, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — for those who aren’t sharp on history, it’s women’s suffrage — I challenge the professional, intelligent and talented women of this county to run for county commissioner in 2022.”

He then noted that his mother would be proud of him before finishing with, “It would be great to see two, three [women] at a minimum, on the 62nd board.”

Indeed, it would be great. Not to have just any woman on the board, of course, but to have a qualified woman (or two, or more) who would be able to bring a different perspective that might give other commissioners pause to revise their own thinking on an issue or policy.

Finding qualified women should be no problem. As Bouchat alluded to, two of the three District 5 state delegates representing Carroll County are women and four of the five seats on the Board of Education are held by women.

In terms of local government, 15 women hold council positions as at least one female represents each of the eight towns or cities in Carroll. Three women hold seats in both Manchester and Union Bridge. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of qualified women working as municipal administrators or holding positions within county government or successful women in the private sector or running nonprofits.

According to the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, the county is home to some 168,000 residents. More than half are women. The idea that no female, in 2020, holds a seat on the Board of Commissioners in Carroll County is hard to accept. That only two women in history — Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier — have been commissioners is hard to comprehend.

We hope to see that change in 2022, when incumbents won’t necessarily be standing in the way. Three commissioners — Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, Richard Weaver, R-District 2, and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3 — can’t run again because of term limits. And Bouchat said last year that he won’t run again.

Clearly, Bouchat would like his legacy as commissioner to be his role in changing Carroll County’s form of government. Regardless of whether that happens, if any woman was inspired by his words at Tuesday’s State of the County and winds up winning a seat on the Board of Commissioners, that would be a pretty nice legacy, too.

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