Jackson County candidate Sherwood Smith has plans to empower women

06/22/2014 7:02 PM

06/22/2014 7:41 PM

A promising plan to increase women’s clout within city government ought to be spread to county government. That’s the idea behind the latest in the race for the 1st District at-large seat of the Jackson County Legislature.

On Wednesday, Sherwood Smith will showcase his campaign’s prominent female supporters, leading with former Mayor Kay Barnes, who will join him at a noon press conference outside City Hall.

Smith, a veteran firefighter and union leader, will unroll his plan to address the status of women within county government. He’s dovetailing off of Mayor Sly James’ women’s empowerment initiative, an in-depth effort to increase women’s numbers on commissions, boards and other areas. The city effort is even beginning the daunting task of looking into the possibility of city-affiliated childcare.

Smith is wise to latch on. James is among his supporters for the legislative seat.

Smith faces former Royals hall of famer Frank White in the Aug. 5 primary. White is running largely on his status as a beloved hometown hero and his decades of loyalty to Kansas City.

Smith envisions the county creating a task force to work on women’s equality. Among his ideas would be only supporting “development agreements, service contracts, and collective bargaining agreements entered into by the county (or over which the County has a voice in the approval process) if the contracting party’s governing board is composed of 40-60% female officers.”

He also wants a focus on small business lending and financial literacy as they relate to women, in addition to the number of women on boards and commissions. And he wants timelines for goals set by the task force.

The approach City Hall is taking is a thoughtful one of significant actions. It was months in the making, sought the input of city workers through an anonymous survey and tapped into the expertise of the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Central Exchange and UMKC’s Women’s Center.

Branching the basics of the city initiative to the county government makes sense. And frankly, it wouldn’t matter who did it. As long as the person is in a position to organize support for cooperative actions, has the conviction to see it through and the common sense to sidestep pitfalls.

Is that person Smith? At the very least, he’s stepping up first with the message.

To reach Mary Sanchez call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @msanchezcolumn.

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