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Nonpartisan Series Aims To Develop Women For Public Leadership

Faith Van Gilder
Advancing Voices of Women

The Paul Helmke School for Women in Public Life is a nonpartisan series that aims to develop women for public leadership in Northeast Indiana. The last installment of the series was held on November 2, 2017. Several women filled a small room at IPFW’s Neff hall to hear women speak about their experiences in elected and appointed leadership positions. 

The series was sponsored by Advancing Voices of Women or (AVOW) which was created by local women leaders. Their mission is to encourage more women to become involved in community discourse.

Maggie Milne attended all three parts of the series. “I learned how to get involved locally with just being on a board of commissions at the county and city level. Which for me might be a great place to start,” said Milne. She says she was inspired to become more involved in the community after the 2016 election.

The first panel consisted of women elected into office. The women featured on the panel were: Liz Brown, District 15 Senator; Therese Brown, 2nd District Allen County Commissioner; Michelle Chambers, former City of Fort Wayne City Clerk (2015); Judge Wendy Davis since 2011. Jill Long Thompson, former member of Congress and the Common Council of Valparaiso; and Sharon Tucker, 1st district of Allen County Councilwoman.

The second panel highlighted women appointed to councils or boards. The panelists included: Patricia Hays, Allen County Board of Health; Rae Pearson Ph.D., Governor's appointee to the Indiana Department of Administration's Commission for Minority and Women Business Enterprise since 2002; Dawn Rosemound, Downtown Development Trust; Marilyn Moran-Townsend, Chair of Indiana Higher Education Commission; Connie Haas Zuber, Fort Wayne Plan Commission; and Michelle Chambers, former Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.

The panelists shared personal experiences and revealed what they wish they had known before serving in their positions.

Person, the Governor's appointee to the Indiana Department of Administration's Commission for Minority and Women Business Enterprise, stressed that attendees do not have to run for office to make a difference.

“If you want to serve your community and your country, find a cause. Get actively involved and put your whole life and effort into it. The worst thing we can do as people in this world is to be living and breathing and not actively serving to help a cause or a person,” expressed Person.

Previous sessions of the three-part series included discussions lead by Paul Helmke on the history of women in politics and how to become involved in the political process. Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW, Andy Downs, also presented a workshop on campaigning