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Election Night To End Historic Dallas Council Women Majority

Kent Wang

Does it matter if there are fewer women elected to the Dallas City Council?  Two veteran councilwomen say it “may” in some ways.  Tomorrow’s council elections will end a female council majority.

Right now, there are more women on the Dallas City Council than ever before – nine of the 15 council seats. But it wasn’t always that way.  Dallas didn’t elect its first woman to the council until 1957. It was Calvert Collins. Forty-two years later, women took the majority – 8 seats including Mayor Laura Miller.

Current Council member Sandy Greyson was also on that 1999 council with Mayor Miller.  She says at first, she didn’t think there was any difference in the way men and women approached issues … but now.

"I think that women bring a little different perspective to some of these issues and perhaps bring up things that we should be looking at that might not have been brought up without us being there," Greyson said.

Outgoing Council member Linda Koop has seen a difference with a female majority on the council.

“You know actually I think it does influence the dynamic," Koop said, thinking back on her eight years on the council. " I think there’s a lot of cordial discourse when you have a majority woman council.  And I’ve been on both."

SMU sociologist Sheri Kunovich says there are studies that show women council members or legislators are typically more consensus builders than males.

“There’s anecdotal as well as more scientific study that it appears to be that way,” Kunovich said.

Kunovich says she’s disappointed there aren’t more women in the races to replace the three veteran councilwomen who are leaving because of term limits.  

“I do wonder what’s happening in Dallas city politics that isn’t producing more women in the wings, waiting to run for these seats when they come open,” Kunovich said. 

The field is all male in the races for seats held by Pauline Medrano and Linda Koop.  Six men and one woman are running to replace Angela Hunt. The perceived three front runners are male.  So, tomorrow night’s election will end the landmark female majority on the council.

“Regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation the body politic functions  best when the members respect one another, differences or not,” former Dallas Council member Veletta Lill wrote in response to questions about the impact of a female majority city council.  

Linda Koop says the current council cultivated that respect and got a lot done. 

“The males on the council are just terrific guys," Koop said with a big smile. "They listen to everybody’s point of view. They’re good decision makers just as the females are. So, I can honestly say that this council is a terrific council.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s more women or not. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of years.  I’m very proud of everybody.”

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.