EVERETT — Women are in the majority on the Everett City Council for the first time in the city’s nearly 129-year history.
Councilmembers Mary Fosse, Paula Rhyne, Don Schwab, Liz Vogeli and Ben Zarlingo were sworn in Monday by Judge Laura Van Slyck during a special meeting at City Hall.
The five council members who took their oaths of office also represent the city’s first geographic council districts. Previously, all City Council positions were elected citywide, but voters approved districts in 2018 and they took effect for elections last year.
With at-large Councilmembers Brenda Stonecipher and Judy Tuohy, the council has its first female majority, 5-2.
Stonecipher, the longest-serving council member, said she was often the only woman on the council.
“I’m very glad to see us shatter the glass ceiling,” she said.
In addition to women leading the legislative branch, Everett’s executive office is held by Mayor Cassie Franklin. She is Everett’s first woman elected to run City Hall but wasn’t the first female mayor.
In 1977, Joyce Ebert became the city’s first female mayor when she filled the final two months of a vacated term. She also was the city’s first woman elected to the council, in 1973.
Franklin is set for another four-year term and took the oath of office as well Monday.
“It’s an honor and I’m thrilled to be part of this very historic day,” Franklin said. ”I’m very excited to work in close partnership with all of you as we lead our beautiful city forward.”
In Washington, women have had the right to vote since 1910, and the federal Voting Rights Act in part barred discrimination in elections in 1965.
“We’re really happy that only 100 years after women finally got the vote, that there’s a city council that has a majority of women,” League of Women Voters of Snohomish County board secretary and historian Vicki Roberts-Gassler told The Daily Herald before the meeting.
The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 after the 19th Amendment was ratified. The group focuses on voter registration and education and takes up political issues, such as locally when the county chapter advocated for Everett City Council districts.
About 48.4% of Everett’s 111,000 residents are female, according to U.S. Census data.
“For a city our size, I feel like we’re a little late,” Rhyne said after the ceremony.
Per election records, 15 women and 36 men have served on the Everett City Council since 1968. That was when the city approved a new charter that established the strong mayor-council government that exists today.
“Now my daughter sees me up there and my son see that as a norm,” Fosse said after the ceremony.
Across the state, women held almost 40% of municipal office positions in 95 cities with populations over 10,000, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics. That percentage, as of April, ranks Washington sixth nationally based on research from the unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“We have no idea whether our foremothers dreamed that it would ever happen or that it would take so long,” Roberts-Gassler said.
It was the council’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic gripped the country. But the council planned to resume remote meetings indefinitely on Wednesday.
Ben Watanabe: email@example.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.
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