OGDEN — Terri McCulloch, president of the Weber County League of Women Voters, has a message.
“Get involved. Make some change. Don’t be afraid to make change,” she said.
Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the League of Women Voters in Chicago, and a century after its creation, McCulloch said the group, focused on encouraging civic participation, continues to make waves. Some civic organizations have come and gone, but the League has stuck it out.
“We’ve just gotten stronger over the 100 years and reached out to more people,” she said.
The Weber County chapter formed in 1963, McCulloch said, and initially put a focus on registering people to vote. Beyond that, it has carried out studies over the years and pushed for increased attention on varied issues of local import — whether the three-commission form of county government should be changed, whether the Weber and Ogden school districts should merge and more. The local group holds regular meetings on civic issues, and ahead of last November’s municipal elections, hosted debates for the mayoral candidates in North Ogden and the city council hopefuls in West Haven.
“We battle passivity,” said Margaret Rostkowski of Ogden, a League member for about 50 years. Around 40 or 45 are active in the local group, and aside from Weber County, the league has chapters in Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Grand counties.
The local chapter has no special events slated to mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary, though on Tuesday the Ogden City Council recognized the milestone during the body’s regular meeting. The North Ogden City Council passed a resolution of support for the organization, sought by members from the Weber County chapter, on Jan. 28.
Last Monday, meantime, the group held one of its regular gatherings, hosting a panel discussion on homelessness featuring speakers from three local groups focused on the issue.
‘WE DON’T TAKE SIDES’
As a group, Rostkowski said the League generally strives for neutrality. “We don’t take sides. We’re totally nonpartisan,” she said.
That said, Marilyn O’Dell, a league member for about 25 years, said the group encourages members — everyone, really — to air their thoughts and concerns. “We encourage every individual to speak their own mind,” she said.
And on certain issues of import, group members will carry out their own studies and seek some sort of consensus.
Years ago, the group studied the notion of merging the Ogden and Weber school districts, reaching accord that such change would probably be good because it would save money. Rostkowski noted that the notion, when aired with the public, was “wildly unpopular.”
More recently, the group favored putting the Proposition 3 question on last year’s Weber County ballot, asking if voters wanted to study the notion of shifting from the three-commission county government format to something else. It was soundly rejected, and McCulloch took the results in stride.
“If the public doesn’t want it, the public doesn’t want it,” she said.
More important to McCulloch is sparking discussion on the issues, and she hopes the group, going forward, can host more forums for candidates for local office in Weber County. Roberta Glidden, another longtime member, also notes the give and take among members.
“It’s nice to be able to get other peoples’ opinions and hang out with people who are intelligent,” she said.
The League of Women Voters’ 100th anniversary on Friday isn’t the only milestone related to women and politics. It’s also the 150th anniversary of the first time a woman voted in Utah, a national milestone. The Utah House and Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution marking the date, Feb. 14, 1870, when 25 Utah women voted in a Salt Lake City election.