The Louisville Metro Council has the most female members since 2007 with the addition of two new members: Democrat Cindi Fowler and Republican Marilyn Parker.
The freshman lawmakers were sworn-in this week and both hope to add new perspectives for their districts and respective political caucuses.
Fowler and Parker come into council with very different backgrounds.
Fowler is a former legislative aide and replaces her old boss, Bob Henderson, who retired. She is a graduate of Emerge Kentucky, which helps train Democratic women to run for office and won a seat that the GOP had hoped to pick up last fall.
Asked about the biggest difference between her and Henderson, Fowler says her predecessor served his constituents well, but didn’t always have an open ear.
“I would say probably I would listen a lot more,” she says.
Fowler will represent District 14 in far southwest Louisville and hopes to serve on the public safety and community affairs committee. She says having more women on the council is important and it brings new ideas to legislation.
“I think it’s a great thing. I think women put a different perspective on government,” says Fowler.
Unlike her freshman colleague, Parker came up through the political ranks from the outside of government and is a well-known tea party activist who defeated Republican incumbent Jon Ackerson to represent District 18 in the East End.
Parker says going from grassroots activism to public office will be a significant change, but she’s ready to make public policy instead of rallying against it.
“There is a change in a way you convey your message,” she says. “Of course I will still have my core, fundamental conservative beliefs, but it will be channeled in a way that will be working on legislation and working for the district.”
Political observers have noted that a record number of women are serving in the 113th Congress, which some argued could change policy and the work environment. The House of Representatives has 81 female members and the U.S. Senate has 20.
“It absolutely significant, and I hope the numbers increase to reflect the diversity in our own city,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, who has been an outspoken proponent for more women in public office. “Women are problem solvers, and the country, our community and the state are looking for that.
The figures show that Democrats are ahead of the curve compared to their GOP counterparts, but Republicans point to rising stars such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice.
Parker will be the only female Republican on the council, and the first since former lawmakers Julie Raque Adams and Ellen Call left the council in 2008.
The tea party favorite isn’t shy about her conservative values and past protests of the student assignment plan in Jefferson County Public Schools. She says that having a conservative woman in office should give everyone a different view on the party’s relationship with women.
“I’m not the first female conservative ever in public office, but I think it will add a good perspective for the Republican caucus as well as the whole council,” says Parker.
The council will hold its first regular meeting on January 24.