Blumert joins small club of fe­male county com­mis­sion­ers

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY SILAS ALLEN Staff Writer [email protected]­la­homan.com

Car­rie Blumert showed up to the first day of train­ing for newly elected county com­mis­sion­ers this week wear­ing a suit and heels.

When she walked in the door, she im­me­di­ately found her­self sur­rounded by about 50 men in cow­boy boots.

“I was def­i­nitely the mi­nor­ity,” Blumert said.

When Blumert, the in­com­ing Dis­trict 1 com­mis­sioner for Ok­la­homa County, is sworn in Jan. 2, she’ll join a small club of women serv­ing on county com­mis­sions across the state. Out of the 77 coun­ties in Ok­la­homa, just seven — Ok­la­homa, Tulsa, Pot­tawatomie, Grant, Mayes, Haskell and Love — have fe­male com­mis­sion­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Ok­la­homa As­so­ci­a­tion of County Com­mis­sion­ers.

Blumert isn’t Ok­la­homa County’s first fe­male com­mis­sioner. When she takes of­fice in Jan­uary, she will re­place out­go­ing Dis­trict 1 Com­mis­sioner Willa John­son. But Blumert said the lack of women serv­ing on county com­mis­sions across the state is wor­ri­some.

Al­though it isn’t as much in the pub­lic eye as city or state gov­ern­ment, county gov­ern­ment has a num­ber of im­por­tant func­tions, Blumert said.

County com­mis­sions play a role in over­see­ing county jails, dis­trict court sys­tems and the con­struc­tion and main­te­nance of roads and bridges. Any­time en­tire cat­e­gories of peo­ple, such as women, peo­ple of color, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties or peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced in­car­cer­a­tion, are left out of the con­ver­sa­tion, poli­cies won’t re­flect those peo­ple’s needs, she said.

Dur­ing last month’s elec­tion, vot­ers sent sev­eral women to the Ok­la­homa Leg­is­la­ture and one — Ken­dra Horn — to Congress. But those strides didn’t ex­tend to county

com­mis­sions. Blumert said she’s spo­ken with mem­bers of her cam­paign about find­ing ways to en­cour­age more women to run for county com­mis­sion seats across the state.

Gene Wal­lace, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Ok­la­homa As­so­ci­a­tion of County Com­mis­sion­ers, said women are ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in county gov­ern­ment across the state, but they’re more likely to serve in other roles, such as trea­surer, county clerk or as­ses­sor.

It’s un­com­mon for women to run for county com­mis­sion seats, but the hand­ful of fe­male com­mis­sion­ers the state does have are ex­cep­tion­ally ef­fec­tive, he said.

Wal­lace said he thinks part of the rea­son for the trend is the na­ture of the work county com­mis­sion­ers have done in the past. Un­til re­cently, county com­mis­sion­ers spent much of their time deal­ing with road equip­ment — work that, decades ago, was seen as un­suit­able for women. But as the work be­comes more ad­min­is­tra­tive and at­ti­tudes about women’s roles change, Wal­lace said he thinks more fe­male can­di­dates will seek those posts in the fu­ture.

Car­rie Blumert

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