After the re-election of Kristine Petersen and the election of Sherida Ridgdill to the city commission last week, Clewiston is looking at the first female-dominated board in the city’s history.
Though neither Commissioner Petersen nor Ridgdill believe the board will be drastically affected because there are more women filling the seats than men, Commissioner Petersen acknowledged that men and women do differ in some areas.
“I think [the residents] are going to find that women lead differently and apply information differently. It doesn’t mean we’re any better or any worse,” said Commissioner Petersen.
Ridgdill said she didn’t believe having three women on the commission would have any impact on the board or its decisions.
“I don’t believe the impact [of the board] will change based on genders of the commissioners,” she said.
Certainly, the board will have the same impact on the city regardless of the gender of the commissioners — making decisions for a city will always have an impact regardless of who is making those decisions — but whoever is on the board hopes to impact the city positively rather than negatively. In Mayor Phillip Roland’s opinion, who was also re-elected to the commission last week, having a female-dominated board may be a “good thing.”
“[The board] has never been dominated by ladies [before], and maybe it’s a good thing. We’ll see what kind of ideas come out of it. … I think with a cohesive board we can get a lot accomplished,” said Mayor Roland.
Commissioner Petersen and Ridgdill join Commissioner and former mayor Mali Gardner as the female elected officials when they are sworn in at the next regular meeting on Nov. 17.
Commissioner Gardner, though not the first female commissioner in city history — that title goes to Ruth Thompson who was elected to the commission in 1987 — she was the first female mayor. It is a role she said she met without much opposition.
“Everyone was always very supportive of me, and it was a great experience. Public service is not easy but I’m a better person for it because of what I’ve learned,” said Commissioner Gardner. “I am very excited about the future of Clewiston and this new opportunity before us. I hope and pray that our decisions will lay out a better future for our city.”
Recently elected commissioners Petersen and Ridgdill are eager to serve the citizens of Clewiston. Ridgdill said, as commissioner, she hopes to position the commission to where it provides clear visions and goals for the city manager to execute, with a focus on attracting new businesses and developments.
Apart from her broad conceptual goal, she also plans to take on the issue of the red light cameras, especially in light of recent litigation in the state of Florida regarding whether or not a third party can issue such a ticket.
Commissioner Petersen hopes to take on the issue of the city’s infrastructure and overall fiscal health in her next four years on the board.
As far as the history making election is concerned, Commissioner Petersen said God has often put her in positions that break gender barriers, including a stint in the construction area working for Bell Telephone Company and becoming one of the few women on the road in the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office. She also held the position of Assistant Chief in the Clewiston Police Department.
Concerning herself and her fellow female commissioners, Mali Gardner and Ridgdill, Petersen said, “I think we’ve come into our right time and right place.”