Haywood’s last female commissioner says we need more women in government
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there should be at least 31,614 women in Haywood County, but judging by this year’s commission race that number is actually zero.
Of the seven candidates that cast their hats in the ring back during the primaries and of the six now seeking three seats on an all-male board, not one is a woman, ensuring Mary Ann Enloe, 77, will remain Haywood County’s last female commissioner, at least for now.
“Women bring a difference in how things are looked at,” said Enloe. “Women bring a different perspective. We’re not men. We don’t look at everything the way men look at it. We’re not supposed to. And I think we need that difference. We need that perspective.”
It’s not a new phenomenon — women make up slightly more than half of the population nationally, and that percentage increases as people age, but nowhere in the United States do women achieve anything even resembling proportional representation.
This year, women as a percentage of Congress are at an all-time high of 19.4 percent. Right now, 24.7 percent of the N.C. General Assembly are female. Wyoming is lowest at 11.1 percent, and Vermont is highest at 40 percent.
And although there are women on every municipal board in Haywood County, including Maggie Valley’s Mayor, Saralyn Price, Enloe is only the second female Haywood commissioner, ever.
“One of two,” she said, referring to Commissioner Rubye Bryson, who was Haywood’s first female commissioner while Enloe was serving as Hazelwood’s first female mayor back in the mid-1980s. “I love to say in 200 years, because that is true, however, women didn’t have the vote until 1920.”
Enloe was defeated in 2008 after serving two terms. Since then, 28 candidates have run. Four have been women.
In 2016, Democrat Robin Greene Black finished second of four in the primary but fourth of four in the general. Libertarian Windy McKinney didn’t have a primary opponent in 2014, but finished sixth of six in the general election. No women at all ran in 2012. In 2010, Rhonda Cole Schandevel finished fourth of seven, not good enough to advance. That same year, Republican Jeanne Sturges Holbrook finished fourth out of five, also not good enough to advance.
So not only are women not getting elected, they’re not even running.
“I have some ideas about that,” Enloe said. “I think one thing, and I won’t put them in order, is it’s hard to put yourself out there when you realize that you’re not entitled to one minute’s privacy. You can find out and tell everything you can find out and tell about me.”
That scrutiny may be new for women, but it’s not the only reason.
“And of course, the bias against women anyway — we’re at least a generation away, in my opinion, from fixing that, and I think that’s what we’re seeing nationally is that women have their place, and that isn’t their place. That’s a generational thing, and it’s wrong,” she said. “It’s as wrong as can be.”
It’s not only a problem in Haywood County, but many of the western counties. There are currently no women serving on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, though Democrat Gayle Woody is running against incumbent Republican Charles Elders this year.
The Macon County Board of Commissioners does not include a woman, but Democrat candidate Betty Cloer Wallace hopes to change that this fall.
Swain County Board of Commissioners is also all male, but Republican candidates Holly Bowick and Carolyn Bair are running for seats this year.