Lynda Tremaine drove to sign up for city elections on the last day to qualify for the City Council position, hoping the whole way there for an out – that there wouldn't be a parking spot or that she wouldn't have quarters to pay for it.
Tremaine felt compelled to run but was hesitant for a myriad of reasons, she said. After new developments were proposed in her ward that she was uncomfortable with, however, she said it seemed like the right thing to do.
So she told herself if she got to City Hall that day and the incumbent was running unopposed, she would run. Sure enough, the incumbent was set to be alone on the ballot.
"I never even joined Girl Scouts because I didn't want to ask people to buy girl scout cookies," Tremaine, now Ward 5 councilwoman, said. "I just didn't like asking for things, but I went door to door during my campaign and met people."
Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten's experience getting involved, while less hesitant, was similar. She saw things happening development wise that she wanted to know more about and speak up about, but her deciding factors, she said, were her two daughters.
"All the stars aligned, and I really had a calling saying, 'Run, and if you're elected, then go do good things,'" Witten said.
With an undergraduate degree in logistics and marketing and a bachelor of science in business administration, Witten approaches many facets of her life with a business mind set. Throughout Witten's professional career she's "worn many hats" and her degrees have helped her every step of the way, she said.
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However, with her business-geared career, Witten said her world has always been male dominated, and it's where she has felt comfortable.
"Everywhere I've worked, I've worked to the best of my abilities,” Witten said. “Naturally, if you're doing a good job, people respect you. I find that people respect me, and it's not based off of gender – probably because I don't give a lot of energy to that. I'm in the room; I'm sitting at the same table as you. We're going to have this conversation equally, and it doesn't really matter if you're a guy or a girl."
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Tremaine said she never really viewed herself as a "leader," but during her time working in education, certain positions continued to open up and eventually landed her as principal at an Auburn elementary school.
After decades of working in education, she retired and did not intend on continuing professional work in any capacity. But, her passion for the Auburn community led her to City Council.
As far as working in City Council as a woman, she feels sometimes people view her as more emotional or more personally attached to the issues either because of who she is or because she's a woman – an experience she feels many women in leadership or political roles face simply because they're passionate.
"Somebody told me once, 'Well, you’re more emotionally connected to the issues than the people more connected to business,' and I said, 'Well you know, that's not a bad thing,'" Tremaine said.
Witten also said that from her perspective, she's never been concerned with being a woman in a male dominated work place. In regards to City Council, before Verlinda White was appointed to represent Ward 1, Witten and Tremaine were the only two women on the council, and before that, the council was all male.
White, the councilwoman for Ward 1, was previously on City Council. She was appointed to temporarily return to the council when Ward 1 Councilman Clemon Byrd, a member of the Alabama Army National Guard, was deployed.
Despite requests, White declined to be interviewed for this story.
Both Witten and Tremaine emphasized the importance of varied perspectives – something women and minorities can add to institutions whether it be local government, school administrations or federal government.
"As long as I feel like I can contribute to the conversation, whether it's on council, whether it's my business, being a parent with kids who challenge me – for me, it's just important that I can continue to contribute to the conversation," Witten said. "I try not to dominate it; I try not to just sit back and let it happen without some kind of understanding of it."
Witten said that she feels, as a mom of two daughters, it's part of her job to empower them to navigate and have the strength to deal with any situation. She said, for her, it's important to have gratitude for the women who paved the way to allow women opportunities like she's had and for those who continue to work toward equal treatment of women.
With two daughters and six granddaughters, Tremaine said one of her proudest moments was a moment after she won the City Council election. One of her daughters called her and said, "Just think what an example you are to your granddaughters."
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