When the next mayor of New Orleans is inaugurated, Louisiana will be the only state to have female mayors of its three largest cities. The new mayor will join Baton Rouge’s Sharon Weston Broome and Shreveport’s Ollie Tyler.
Despite the image of the glass ceiling, mayors in the executive office have hardly been novel in this state that has also had a woman governor; two women senators, Mary Landrieu and Elaine Edwards; and two female members of congress, Lindy Boggs and Catherine Long. (Also, in New Orleans women have been in the majority on the city council for over a decade.)
In Shreveport, Tyler is the second female mayor. The first was Hazel Beard, who was elected in 1990.
Lake Charles has also had a female mayor, Willie Mount, who was elected to two terms but left after being elected to the legislature.
Most of these women are since 1990, but Baton Rouge had a female mayor as early as 1956. That was Mary Webb, who held the office briefly.
Parish Presidents are sort of like mayors. They are chief executives for parishes. There are two female parish presidents within the region: Pat Brister in St. Tammany, and Natalie Robottom in St. John Parish. And keep a watch out for Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who will likely be running for Mike Yenni’s job in 2019. Consider this, unless anything drastic happens, four of the state’s most populous, and politically important parishes – Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and East Baton Rouge – might have women as chief executives.
Across the state we see the emergence of the black female; New Orleans’s new mayor, Broome, Robottom, and Tyler are all black. Politically that means that gender aside party lines will remain rigid.
What to expect from female governance? Probably the same as when the guys are in charge; some good; some bad. Some powerful; some not. We can look at Europe where two of the most important countries, Germany and Great Britain, are headed by ladies. And it is fair to remember that elsewhere THE most powerful country came close to having a female president.
Women in politics widens the field and certainly provides inspiration for a segment of the population. To the next generation the glass ceiling may more likely be made of paper.
“New Orleans: The First 300 Years,” edited by Errol Laborde, is now available at bookstores. A collection of journalists and academics wrote chapters on different aspects of the city’s life. It is an important guide to understanding the city’s history from a wide range of perspectives.
Errol’s Laborde’s book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.