Women Legislators' Lobby

Pacesetters 2007

Representative Barbara Ballard, Kansas

Dr. Barbara W. Ballard has been in the Kansas House of Representatives since 1992. She serves on the House Leadership Team as the Democratic Caucus chair and is the first African American to serve on Leadership. She is the vice president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. She has been with the University of Kansas since 1980. She is the associate director at the Dole Institute of Politics and has served as an associate vice provost for student success, associate dean for student life, and director of the Women's Resource Center. She teaches for the School of Education and Department of Women's Studies. She was inducted into the KU Women's Hall of Fame. She received the CLASS award, and the Don Volker Leadership Award. She was recognized by the Mortar Board College Senior Honor Society. She was named the 2006 Outstanding Public Official of the Year by the Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

Delegate Bonnie Brown, West Virginia

Bonnie Brown, a WiLL state director, recently completed her eighth term representing Kanawha County’s 30th District. She has headed the legislative committee of the Women’s Commission, chaired the South Charleston Human Rights Commission, and initiated the first Women’s Day at the Legislature. A strong voice for women and children since 1982, Del. Brown has also served as executive director of the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce. For her commitment to women’s rights, she has received numerous awards, including the state’s Susan B. Anthony Award. She currently serves as state director for Women in Government.

Representative Edna Brown, Ohio

Edna Brown, a WiLL state director, began her tenure in the Ohio Legislature in 2002. She has been awarded the Jack Wolfe Memorial Award for her efforts to bring “No Excuse” Absentee Voting to Ohio in the 125th and 126th General Assemblies. Dedicated to community service, Rep. Brown has served on numerous boards and commissions. She is a founder of the Greater Toledo Urban League, and was honored with the “ROSA” Award in December 2006 for her contributions on behalf of her community.

Senator Meg Burton-Cahill, Arizona

Meg Burton-Cahill, a WiLL state director, served for six years in the Arizona House of Representatives, and recently completed her first term in the Senate. She is a community activist for disabled citizens, a supporter of blue collar workers, and an avid advocate for public finance campaigns. Her voting record demonstrates a commitment to economic development, and environmental concerns. As a founder of the bipartisan Children’s Caucus, she also works to advance reasonable and responsible budgets funding education, public safety, and Child Protective Services. She serves on the Phoenix Disability Commission, the Arizona Emergency Medical Services Governing Board, and is co-chair of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices.

Senator Gloria Butler, Georgia

Gloria Butler, a WiLL state director, started her service in the Georgia State Senate during the 1999-2000 session. She is a graduate of Perimeter College, and holds an associate degree in Business Administration. She has sponsored and co-sponsored more than 80 pieces of legislation, and is an avid champion of children’s issues. She also works diligently to improve the public health system, serving as a member of the Health and Human Services and Rules Committee. She is currently working as a consultant and is a member of a number of organizations, such as the National Council of Negro Women, and the National Organization for Women.

Representative Marilyn Canavan, Maine

Marilyn Canavan, a WiLL state director, is serving her fourth consecutive term in the House of Representatives. She chairs the Government Oversight Committee and serves on the Committee on Insurance and Financial Services. She helped author Maine’s Clean Election Act, and is the current Maine state director of Women in Government. She has received many distinguished honors, including Legislator of the Year from the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the Rising Tide Award from the Maine People’s Alliance.

Representative Sydney Carlin, Kansas

State Representative Sydney Carlin, a WiLL state director, began her tenure in the State Legislature in 2003. She is the treasurer of the statewide Democratic Disabilities Caucus. A former Mayor of Manhattan, she has served on the Martin Luther King Committee since its creation in 1992. For the past four years, she has been the legislative chair of Project Manhattan - an effort to assure the availability of food from the Breadbasket over the summer months. She is currently working toward a master’s in Adult and Continuing Education.

Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, New York

Barbara Clark is beginning her tenth two-year term in the New York Assembly, where she has held a number of leadership positions. A dedicated leader in the area of education reform, she is the current chair of the Education Committee of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus. She served as vice chair of the National Conference of State Legislators’ (NCSL) Education, Labor and Job Training Committee, and is a member of the Human Services Committee. She has been a commissioner of the Education Commission of the States since 1989, and is a member of the National Forum Committee.

Representative Merika Coleman, Alabama

Merika Coleman was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2002. She was a 2004 Fleming Fellow with the Center for Policy Alternatives; she was also selected as an American Council of Young Political Leaders delegate to Japan in 2003. She is chair of the Committee on Boards and Commissions and chair of the Black Caucus’s Labor Round Table. She has held several positions with nonprofit organizations as a public policy analyst and strategist. She also serves as a Board member of Greater Birmingham Ministries and Saint Mary’s Catholic School. She is an Executive Board member of the Midfield Neighborhood Association, and founding member of the Midfield Voters League, an organization which elected the first African American Mayor of the City of Midfield.

Senator Dede Feldman, New Mexico

Dede Feldman, a WiLL state director, has been a journalist, high school and university teacher, and owner of a small public relations business. She has been a State Senator since 1997, and currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee and the Co- Chair of the Interim Health and Human Services Committee. A longtime environmentalist, Feldman has sponsored many bills to preserve the bosque and conserve water, including the statewide water plan, and a landmark groundwater protection bill passed in 1999.

Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald, Colorado

Joan Fitz-Gerald is the first woman to hold the position of president of the Colorado State Senate. She was recognized for her accomplishments nationally when she was elected chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — the first woman elected to chair the DLCC. She attended Marymount Manhattan College, earning a B.A. degree in political science and history. She has worked to give people more access to affordable healthcare, to improve public education for children, and to develop economic security for all Americans. In April of this year, she announced her candidacy for U.S. Congress.

Senator Debbie Halvorson, Illinois

Debbie Halvorson, a WiLL state director, is the first woman to serve as Majority Leader of the State Senate in Illinois (appointed in 2005). She serves as co-chair of the Coalition of Women Legislators. She has taken a strong stance towards providing affordable prescription drugs, regardless of income, and has toured the country as an advocate of women’s issues. She has been named Illinois Education Hero, Business Advocate of the Year, Outstanding Legislator of the Year, and Statesman of the Year by a variety of organizations.

Representative Pricey Harrison, North Carolina

Pricey Harrison is serving her second term, representing District 57, in the North Carolina House of Representatives. A former communications law attorney, and environmental advocate and activist, she is now president of the Julian Price Family Foundation, and a Board member of Piedmont Land Conservancy and North Carolina Environmental Defense.

Representative Ana Hernandez, Texas

Ana Hernandez was elected in 2005 and serves on the House Committees on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, Border and International Affairs, and Rules and Resolutions. She graduated from the University of Houston and went to University of Texas School of Law. She practices law at the Mostyn Law Firm. She is a member of various professional, civic and charitable organizations including the State Bar of Texas; is on the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston; is a Texas Bar Foundation Fellow; and is on the Board of Regents for the Texas Chiropractic College.

Representative Joni Jenkins, Kentucky

Joni Jenkins, a WiLL state director, has represented the 44th House District since 1995. She is chair of the Licensing and Occupations Committee. Since 2002, she has been the chair of the Jefferson County Delegation; she has served as chair of the House Women’s Caucus. She began the University of Louisville’s PEACC Program, a federally funded program to combat violence against women. Her history of legislation reflects her concerns for the safety of women and children, from the establishment of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (S.A.N.E.) program to workplace safety to legislation to strengthen the Sex Offender Registry. In 2001, she traveled to Romania with the University of Louisville to assist in the opening of Romania’s first shelter for victims of domestic violence. She has proposed legislation to narrow the pay gap between males and females.

Representative Kay Khan, Massachusetts

Kay Khan, a WiLL state director, is serving her seventh term in the Massachusetts House. She has been a leading voice on providing affordable health care, public education, affordable housing and human services. She has supported improved transportation and a healthier environment and has been the legislature’s leading advocate for progressive policies for incarcerated individuals including women and their children. She is vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. She was the co-chair of the Caucus of Women Legislators in 1998 and remains an active member of the Caucus’ Board of Directors and is the chair of its task force on Women in the Criminal Justice System. In 1998 Kay also founded and continues as co-chair of the Legislative Mental Health Caucus. In 2007 Kay was appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Commission on Ending Homelessness.

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Washington

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a WiLL state director, has served for 13 years in the Washington State Senate and for three years in the House of Representatives. She serves as chair of the Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee. She has served as president of NCSL’s Women’s Legislative Network. She was a fellow with the Center for Women Policy Studies’ Foreign Policy Institute and GlobalPower Program and the Center for Policy Alternatives’ Flemming Fellows Program and Eleanor Roosevelt Global Leadership Institute. She’s a speaker on women and public policy and an expert witness in lawsuits on Title IX, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment and misconduct in schools, and mail-order bride abuses. She holds a Ph.D. from UCLA and has been teaching at the University of Washington for 22 years.

Senator Carolyn Nelson, North Dakota

Carolyn Nelson, a WiLL state director, is the North Dakota Senate Assistant Minority Leader — the first woman to hold an elected leadership position in the North Dakota Senate. She began legislative service in the North Dakota House in 1986, and moved to the Senate in 1994. Prior to 2002, she was a senior lecturer emeritus of mathematics at North Dakota State University. She received both her BS and MS degrees from NDSU. She was elected first vice president of the National Federation of Music Clubs, an organization with a mission to advance American music, music education, and American musicians.
Congresswomen Laura Richardson (CA) began her legislative career in 2000 on the Long Beach City Council. She worked with community leaders,
businesses, residents and city officials to initiate and support legislative and administrative policies that enhanced the livability of the community. She won her seat in the California Assembly in 2006 and served on the Legislature’s Leadership Team as the Assistant Speaker pro Tempore; she was recognized as the first African-American woman and South Bay representative to hold this position. In 2007, she threw her hat into the special election, and won her seat in Congress last month.

Senator Barbara Toles, Wisconsin

Barbara Toles, a WiLL state director, was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2004. Previously, she worked at Milwaukee Area Technical College as a community outreach coordinator. Her 25-year career in education enabled her to aid hundreds of people realize their potential and achieve their goals. Her interest in politics was sparked by her involvement with the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, where she served as voter service chair and president. She is currently a member of the Governor’s Business Opportunity Advisory Commission, and chairs the Wisconsin Legislature’s Black and Hispanic Caucus.

Representative Diana Urban, Connecticut

Diana Urban was elected to the General Assembly in 2000. She currently serves as the vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. She graduated magna cum laude from Long Island University, holds a master’s degree from State University of New York and studied for her PhD at the University of Rhode Island. She has fought to change the healthcare provider system, and started public-private partnerships in business to combat jobs lost to outsourcing. The National Association of Women Business Owners recognized her efforts by establishing the annual Diana Urban Award and chose her as the first recipient in 2004. She was named an Environmental Hero by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.

Senator Loretta Weinberg, New Jersey

Loretta Weinberg, a WiLL state director, began her tenure in the New Jersey Senate in 2005. Previously, she was an Assemblywoman, serving as Majority Conference Leader, and chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee. She is currently a member of the New Jersey Historical Commission, the Legislative Services Commission, and the New Jersey Israel Commission. She has shown strong dedication to her community, in organizations such as the American Red Cross, and Shelter Our Sisters. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Thea Bry Award for the Advancement of Infant, Child, and Family Emotional Development.


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