‘I never remember noticing it so prevalent’: Women boost presence in Butler County elected offices

Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix has made a habit of sending congratulatory notes to winners of elections in the county. She noticed something new this year: More than half of those elected on Nov. 5 were women.

“I was really taken aback because I never remember noticing it so prevalent,” said Nix, one of four women to hold nonjudicial, countywide offices in Butler County. There are 11 such offices in the county.

It’s a sign that voting for a woman isn’t a novel concept, and credentials and ability to get the job done remain most important, Nix said.

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“There are so many women in the ranks, that voting for a woman is not a big deal now,” Nix said. “People don’t think about it. It’s very natural, and that’s what I appreciate about it.”

More than 40 women were elected on Nov. 5 out of 84 who earned local offices in Butler County.

Nix believes the Millennial generation has a lot to do with more women being elected.

“Women surpassed men in getting higher degrees decades ago, and so I think today’s young people (are a factor),” she said. “They’re much more about equality, and they’re not constrained by ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ They have been told since they were small that they can be leaders, and so I think it’s generational, and it’s gratifying.”

Hamilton Council member-elect Susan Vaughn is “thrilled” to see more women running for office, let alone elected.

“I just think that it’s important there be equal representation,” said the former 2018 Statehouse candidate. “I hope someday that people will say, ‘Susan Vaughn was elected to whatever,’ and not identify me as a woman (candidate).”

She said it’s more important to vote on ability and credentials, and their passion to serve.

“I hope we can reach that point within a few years where it’s no longer about what gender you are,” she said.

In 2018, the Ohio House of Representatives had an historic election in which 28 women were elected. That’s the most female lawmakers elected to the Ohio House in its 216-year history. Half of the women elected last year had never served in the state legislature.

Butler County has increased the number of women representing communities. Before the election this year, four school districts and the Fairfield Twp. trustees board had a female majority. In 2020, another school board and Middletown City Council will be added to the list.

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Middletown Council member-elect Monica Nenni credits her ability to win a city council seat to the women that came before her and hopes to be that inspiration to the next generation.

“I think what’s changed is there are more women seeking office, and you see more women in office because there are more women running and more young women running for office,” she said. “We are lucky to have strong examples — in our mothers, and the women that came before us — who gave us that ability to have a seat at the table. I credit all the women who came before me … because if it wasn’t for them, women wouldn’t be where they are today.”

Fairfield Twp. has twice had a female majority on its board of trustees. The first came in 2014, and it has been a female-majority board since 2016.

“I just think that in today’s day and age, we just changed as a society and people are less likely to judge based on gender and more likely to choose candidates on the skills and the abilities they bring to the table,” said Fairfield Twp. Trustee Shannon Hartkemeyer, who became the township’s first female trustee when elected in 2013.

And that spreads to their homes, where husbands are supportive of women being leaders in the community, she said.

“The family roles are more fluid, and the men are stepping up to support their spouses in pursuing their dreams,” she said. “When you look at a family, it’s not just the woman, it’s the people behind her, too.”

Notable winners

Dozens of women were elected to local offices on Nov. 5. Here are some that won in contested races in Butler County:

Hamilton City Council: Council member Carla Fiehrer and Council member-elect Susan Vaughn

Middletown City Council: Mayor-elect Nicole Condrey and Council member-elect Monica Nenni

West Chester Twp. Trustee: Trustee Ann Becker

Fairfield Twp. Fiscal Officer: Fiscal Officer Shelly Schultz

Monroe City Council: Council member Christina McElfresh

Lakota School Board: Board members Lynda O'Connor and Julie Shaffer

Talawanda School Board: Board members-elect Rebecca Howard and Kathleen Knight-Abowitz

Trenton City Council: Council member-elect Jennifer Harris

*NOTE: Those with elect in their title were newly elected to the office on Nov. 5.

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