The League of Women Voters is not for women only. Far from it — the men in the Johnson County League not only show up but jump in with sleeves rolled up.
In 2000, Frank Neff of Lenexa became a member of the Johnson County league board and remembers with a smile, “I was the token male.”
But male membership in the League of Women Voters has increased. In 1975, the Johnson County league had three men; in 2013, 15 men were part of the organization.
I see us making a push in 2014 to spread the word that men are welcome to join the League of Women Voters.
Recently the League of Women Voters of Johnson County celebrated six men who are current or former active members of our league at our “Not for Women Only” Holiday Social. In addition to Neff, we are proud to honor Mark Adamson, Dr. Bradley Appelbaum, Bob Jefferis, Tom Kirkwood and Ed Rowe.
So how do we recruit new members and, in particular, men? Mostly by our current members’ enthusiasm in telling others about the league’s activities, through the timely programs such as “JoCo in the Know” presented at Johnson County libraries and through our general meetings, which are always open to the public and held on the first Saturday morning of the month at Atonement Lutheran Church, 9948 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park.
We are a nonpartisan organization, meaning we do not support or oppose political parties or candidates. We are passionate advocates — women and men — who work to influence policy on specific issues by speaking out to our elected leaders.
For his part, Neff served as chairman of our three-year study on immigration reform. His goal for the committee was to prepare a proposal for a national study of immigration by the national league. He was drawn to the League of Women Voters because the league “is active; they have an influence over what happens in the legislature,” Neff said.
Ed Rowe of Overland Park has long worked with the league. While teaching at Emporia State University, he used the league’s position on water as study material for a biology class. He also served as Emporia’s representative on the state league update of our position on water. Ed was a member of our lobby corps for several years, following water and voting issues in the Kansas Legislature.
After moving to Johnson County, Ed and his wife, Lee, spent four years observing the Johnson County Commission meetings for our local league. Presently Ed is in charge of the sound system for our meetings.
One of our most recent male members is Jim Shetlar. “I joined the league because I knew two men and one woman who are members,” Shetlar said. “Ed Rowe and Frank Neff shared with me their concerns about the influence of money on our elections and the need for our government to be transparent. Roberta Eveslage, the current president of (the Johnson County league), invited me to join their effort to hold elected officials responsible and to make sure in our democracy everyone has the right to vote. ”
Opportunities abound for league members — all part of making democracy work. To learn more, visit our web site www.LWVjoco.org. I invite every citizen to become a member of the League of Women Voters and magnify your voice to your elected representatives.
Remember: The league is not for women only.