Back in the olden days of the 1970’s, being a white woman was the key to the kingdom as post 1960’s equal rights was emerging as the go-to position for America. The US Forest Service was hiring women in all their previously male dominated positions. This movement was reflected in many other opportunities and a new book was out called, “Games Mother Never Taught You, Corporate Politics for Women”.
Fast forward 50 years into a new millennium and I am disheartened to see women shooting themselves in the foot when so much has been accomplished. In the last election, a woman secured the office of Vice President of the United States, and the NID Board achieved a female majority on its Board of Directors. Unimaginable!
A new paradigm was emerging that featured inclusion rather than division, cooperation and collaboration rather than competition, and support rather than the dog eat dog war of domination in the workplace. Until someone let the dogs out at the Nevada Irrigation District; Danger! There was a woman stepping out of her lane.
As a woman firefighter, I had experienced the pushback, doubts, and harassment that goes along with anyone blazing a trail in unconventional roles for women. Laura Peters is an engineer and was in the military; both places where women were rare, back in the day. Achieving Directorship on the Irrigation District Board was unusual. She was elected back in 2018 along with a former real estate agent, Ricki Heck. Prior to that, there had only been only 2 other women on that Board in the 100 year history of the District. 2 years later, the crowning glory of a third woman, Karen Hull, formerly an associate vice chancellor for the UC Davis University, joined the Board.
Things were looking very positive when this Board succeeded in hiring another woman in a male dominated position, General Manager. But then, (Self sabotage is the theme of this column.) Laura, a civil engineer, understood engineering standards of practice. She had likewise worked for the Department of Water Resources, managing region wide projects requiring strategic plans, environmental impact reports, public engagement processes, and general water and resource planning. And she dared to share her knowledge, skills, and experience as a Director.
Every 10 years the District must set new Division boundaries based on population. Ricki Heck and Chris Bierwagen, who live close were protected in their relative divisions. Rich Johansen was happy. And that left Karen and Laura in divisions 3 and 4. The final map D met the required population goals and left each Director in their Division. Karen asked for a new map isolating the cities of Lincoln and North Auburn in a division by themselves. According to General Manager, Jennifer Hansen, “that is where the growth will happen.”
This new map effectively removed Laura Peters from the NID Board. Ricki Heck stated that she was interested in clustering the divisions around watersheds although NID resides almost entirely within the Deer Creek and Bear River watersheds. Karen Hull stated that she was interested in clustering divisions around cities and population centers even though both Nevada City and Grass Valley are “out of District” and cannot vote. Laura challenged the new map but GM Jennifer Hansen insisted, loudly asserting that all the growth would happen in Lincoln!!
Rich Johansen made the motion to adopt the new map E; Karen Hull gave it a second. And so they voted the most qualified person, who had the most experience with water management, resource management, and infrastructure planning, off the Board, effectively disenfranchising thousands of voters and the multitude of neighboring stakeholders with whom Laura has interacted over the last few years. This would never have happened to a man. It is all in the book, men are loyal to each other; women are not.