Story County first all-female board of supervisors in Iowa

CATEGORIES: July 2019, Voices
Story County Board of Supervisors from left: Lauris Olson, Lisa Heddens and Linda Murken.
Story County Board of Supervisors from left: Lauris Olson, Lisa Heddens and Linda Murken.

Story County, home to Iowa State University, is the first of Iowa’s 99 counties with an all-female board of supervisors.

Lisa Heddens, who was serving her ninth term in the state House of Representatives, was appointed to the board on June 13. She joins board chair Linda Murken and Lauris Olson.

“It’s an honor to serve the residents of Story County as supervisor,” Heddens said. “I appreciate the support that I had during my tenure in the Iowa Legislature and hope that support continues during my tenure as a county supervisor.”

Heddens replaced Rick Sanders who stepped down in May to become the president of Iowa State University’s Research Park. Her appointment, made by the Story County Vacancy Committee, was unanimous.

“Women make up only about 10% of county supervisors, so a 100% female board is truly exceptional,” said Kelly Winfrey, coordinator of research and outreach for the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “The only county elected office where women are even more underrepresented is sheriffs, and as of the Catt Center’s 2018 study, there were none in Iowa.”

Story County and Ames have a better representation of women than many of Iowa’s counties and cities. Prior to Heddens appointment, the Story County Board of Supervisors was 66% female. Story County also has women serving as auditor, county attorney and recorder. The Ames City Council is 50% female, and the Ames Community School Board is 57% female.

“We are fortunate to have a board composed of three individuals who bring diverse backgrounds and complementary skills to the complex and challenging job of county supervisor,” Murken said. “And it should be no surprise—other than the fact that it has not happened before in county government in Iowa—that all of the members of such a group could be women.”

The three women now serving on the Story County Board of Supervisors have connections to the Catt Center. Murken and Olson attended the center’s nonpartisan Ready to Run Iowa campaign training program, and Heddens has been a speaker at several of the workshops.

“Ready to Run is an excellent program that provides individuals with the information on why it’s important to be involved in policy making and how to become involved, whether thinking about running in the next election or down the road,” Heddens said.

Ready to Run Iowa is offered every other year and is open to both women and men. Attendees are encouraged to run for elective office, position themselves for appointive office, work on a campaign or become involved in public life as leaders in their communities. The next sessions will be held in the spring of 2021.