Women having an impact in Greenfield City Hall

  • From left, Chief of Staff Danielle Letourneau, Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and City Clerk Kathy Scott at City Hall. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • From left, Chief of Staff Danielle Letourneau and Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner at City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner at City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/3/2020 4:24:40 PM
Modified: 7/3/2020 4:24:28 PM

Editor’s note: The Recorder has dedicated coverage in stories and op-eds for two days on the passage of the 19 Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in 2020. July 4 is the second day.

GREENFIELD — A hundred years after women were granted the right to vote via the 19th Amendment, many are active political leaders in their communities. That includes Greenfield, which elected a woman for its first and current mayors.

There are currently 47 mayors in the state of Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Mayor’s Association, 13 of which are women. One of those 13 women is Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner.

Wedegartner said the fact that two women — she and Sheila Gilmour — ran against each other in the general election last year was “extraordinary,” though it was not yet the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage at the time.

Now, when someone walks into City Hall, they are greeted by a lot of women’s faces, Wedegartner said. From the City Clerk’s Office to the Finance Department, many department heads and city employees are women.

“It is something to be proud of, I’d hang my hat on it,” Wedegartner said, noting that having so many women involved in running the city was unintentional. “With the exception of IT, every department in the City Hall is run by a woman and pretty much employs mostly women.”

One of those department heads includes Chief of Staff Danielle Letourneau, who said she comes from multiple generations of feminists.

“My grandmother got divorced and raised my mother, who raised my sister and me,” Letourneau said. “She used to write me letters in college and asked what I thought about politics. Her generation wasn’t that long ago.”

She said she found it exciting that different individuals could fill various roles in local government.

“Men and women, in this country, have been socialized differently. Generally, women are considered to have a softer, more personal approach,” Letourneau said. “I think that’s beneficial.”

Wedegartner said there have been “watersheds” of women running for office since 2016 — the last national election.

“There are many women running for office,” Wedegartner said. “There are still many gaps, though.”

City Council President Ashli Stempel said that while she has moments in which she is reminded she is someone whom girls look up to, she wants to “propel women to ‘make it,’ whatever that means to them.” One such reminder happened when Stempel was visiting a Girl Scout Troop in Greenfield.

“The troop made me a poster that said, ‘Way to go, Ashli!’” Stempel recalled. “That’s not the reason why I serve the city of Greenfield. I have a vested interest in serving my hometown, but that was a moment I remembered being a woman in this role is important.”

Stempel said Greenfield is unique in the sense that the city has had two women mayors in its history — Christine Forgey was the city’s first — but there is a lot of work to be done to move forward. She said it is important to both note the changes that have occurred in 100 years while continuing to do more work.

“I know that this wasn’t a position that was guaranteed to me, being able to be City Council president, to even be on the City Council,” Stempel said. “It is the culmination of a lot of progress and a lot of room for more progress. ... We still have a lot of work to do. We need to bring allies to work, we need women of color.

“While we have a good representation of women on the council, there are many people who are not represented.”


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