2016 has been a good year for women and women’s issues in Jefferson County.
As we head into uncharted territory with President-elect Donald Trump – whose words are propelling hundreds of thousands to head to Washington, D.C., Jan. 21 to march in protest and a show of concern, including women from Jefferson County – achievements of women locally are worth a moment of reflection.
For starters, women in Jefferson County no longer need to drive out of the county to receive reproductive health care, including some elective surgery.
Flash back to 2015 and recall that Jefferson County, as well as two other public rural hospital districts, were threatened with legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which contended that the hospitals were violating state law by not providing abortion services.
Jefferson Healthcare created a reproductive task force that spent months evaluating the issues before offering recommendations for change.
In June 2016, a year after the task force outlined its recommendations, which public hospital district commissioners had unanimously approved, Jefferson Healthcare became the first rural hospital in the state to offer reproductive care that includes limited surgical procedures. The hospital commissioners and CEO Mike Glenn were responsive to the calls of women and the ACLU for better services.
This year there also were a number of women who moved to front and center in Jefferson County.
In April, Amanda Milholland took over as director of the Port Townsend Farmers Market. Like her community activist brother, Danny, Amanda is a homegrown community asset. She’s not the first woman to run the market, but she is one in a small crop of local women who are either staying in Jefferson County or returning to be part of creating and growing community.
In May, civil engineer Sam Gibboney, 55, became the first woman ever to be hired as the executive director of the Port of Port Townsend. The port is a huge economic driver for Jefferson County. At the time Gibboney took the helm, by her own assessment, the port faced engineering and financial issues related to the environmental permit for the boatyard and mistrust from key constituents. Gibboney accepted the challenge.
In November, Kate Dean, 41, who served as director of the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council, became the second woman on the three-person Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. It’s the first time in the history of Jefferson County that two women are to serve on the county board. Kathleen Kler of Quilcene has held her seat for two years.
With Dean’s election to office, six of 11 major county positions are held by women: Dean and Kler on the county commission, County Auditor Rose Ann Carroll, County Treasurer Stacie Prada, District Court Judge Jill Landes and County Clerk Ruth Gordon.
Throughout Jefferson County, young women are rising to the challenges of a changing world, and seeking sustainable businesses and nonprofits that aim to help the environment and people.
A few names come to mind: In farming, there are Karyn Williams of Red Dog Farm and Crystie Kisler of Finnriver Farm & Cider; in business, there are Teresa Verraes of Jefferson County’s Chamber of Commerce, Jordan Eades of Hope Roofing and Kristin Manwaring of KMi Insurance; in nonprofits, there are Rebecca Benjamin of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Beulah Kingsolver of Dove House Advocacy Services and Amy Howard of The Boiler Room.
And that’s to mention only a few of the many women who work tirelessly to support the community at large, alongside the many men who also support the community.
So as we head into 2017, let’s reflect on what has been accomplished and remember where we stand as a community, supporting one another and rising to support those in need.