League of Women Voters marks 75th anniversary

The Zilla Way Award for outstanding leadership was presented to Gretchen Sabel (middle) by President Susan Anderson (left). Way is on the right. Photo submitted

The celebrants at the League of Women Voters ABC’s 75th anniversary last week ranged from Zilla Way of Anoka with over 65 years of league membership to new American citizen and League member, Nyador Nipnip of Coon Rapids, who learned about League of Women Voters at her naturalization ceremony.

From early members who joined seeking stimulating conversation beyond their stay-at-home roles to newer members seeking diversified topics beyond their careers, a common refrain was, “I joined the League and it changed my life.” The national League of Women Voters was organized in 1920 to help newly enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters. In 1938, a local League of Women Voters was organized in Anoka.

In later years, the Anoka League had a Coon Rapids unit which, along with the League of Women Voters Blaine, joined the Anoka League to form League of Women Voters ABC, with the letters representing Anoka, Blaine, Coon Rapids area. Today women and men from several north and northwest metro communities are members.

In opening the anniversary program, current League president, Susan Anderson of Ramsey, spoke about joining the League of Women Voters in Blaine in the mid 1960’s with resulting experiences that included being elected to Anoka-Hennepin School Board and later Ramsey City Council and serving on the Metropolitan Council.

Similarly, Way recalled the League’s involvement with encouraging an update to Anoka’s city charter that hadn’t been updated since 1929 and Way’s resulting position on the city’s charter commission and later being elected to the city council.

League member and former State Rep. Kathleen Sehkon recalled her experience of participating in an Equal Rights Amendment rally in the 1970s. Continued civic involvement led to her successful legislative bids, she said.

Mary Jo Truchon of Blaine, a League member and a supervisor for Anoka County Conservation District, described the League’s ongoing commitment to water quality issues.

Gretchen Sabel of Andover and a planner with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s water program said, “I kept seeing Mary Jo at all the important water meetings and finally decided that I needed to be a member of League like Mary Jo.”

A past League president, Kay McCulley of Ramsey, shared the irony of actions at a national League of Women Voters meeting in Detroit in the late 1980s.

According to McCulley, a national study topic was being considered and “Texas delegates were pushing hard for an immigration study and they couldn’t understand why states that didn’t border Mexico just didn’t seem interested.

“They were very frustrated - and apparently ahead of the time for the rest of the country,” McCulley said.

Other participants in the anniversary program cited actions and accomplishments in areas that included the hazardous waste site cleanup in Andover and a successful “Be Safe” campaign encouraging use of non-toxic home products and safe disposal of household hazardous waste.

The League has also been engaged in topics that include immigration policy, environmental concerns, voting legislation, homelessness, domestic violence and many others.

Voter Services Co-Chairperson Geri Nelson of Champlin talked about the organization’s work with voter registration, advocacy on public policy and organizing candidate forums.

The next candidate forum will be for three Anoka-Hennepin District 11 school board positions. It will take place Oct. 8, 6:30 p.m., at the Sandburg Education Center in Anoka.

Nelson urged voters to attend to meet and ask questions of the candidates.

The Friend of League Award was presented to Peter Bodley, managing editor for ABC Newspapers, in recognition of the many years that ABC Newspapers has published information about candidate forums, provided election and polling information for local voters and conducted and printed interviews with local candidates

In presenting the award, President Susan Anderson expressed appreciation for the partnership with ABC Newspapers to provide for an informed electorate.

Bodley acknowledged the shared goal of providing non-partisan candidate information to voters and the challenge of getting candidates to participate in forums and surveys.

The Zilla Way Award for outstanding leadership in guiding League of Women Voters ABC was presented to Sabel for her outstanding work with programming, communications and guidance for successful community involvement.

On hand to congratulate the League on its accomplishments were State Reps. Jerry Newton and Jim Abeler, and Andover City Council member Julie Trude. All are also League members.

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

The League’s next monthly program will take place Monday, Oct. 14 at Andover City Hall’s Senior Center. The tentative topic will be election law changes. Refreshments will be served at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 6:30 p.m.

For more information contact Katherine Whelchel at kathiew7contacts@gmail.com.

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