Taylorsville women learn ins and outs of government from an ‘insider’
Jun 25, 2018 04:12PM
● By Carl Fauver
Aimee Winder Newton’s first “What’s what in Government” class filled quickly with would-be female political activists. (Photo courtesy Aimee Winder Newton)
By Carl Fauver | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Taylorsville community council chairwoman has a word of warning for Utah’s male-dominated political landscape after attending a grass-roots class called “What’s what in Government.”
“(Elected officeholders) better keep their eyes open for Aimee and her little army, because we are being trained behind the scenes,” Jennifer Jensen said.
Aimee would be Salt Lake County’s first female council chairwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who’s been riding ahead of the curve for a long time now in trying to get more women to be politically active.
“We need both genders at the table making decisions,” Newton said. “Men and women think differently. They ask different questions. It’s just better government when both sides are represented.”
National numbers clearly show, the rest of America is finally catching up to Newton’s way of thinking, thanks in no small part to our current president.
“The number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives set a record (for this fall’s election); most of them Democrats motivated by angst over President Donald Trump,” the Associated Press recently reported.
As of early April — long before filing deadlines in some states — the AP reported, 309 women are running for the House from the two major parties.
The previous record, set four years ago, was 298.
Four years ago, Newton was the first Republican female elected to the Salt Lake County Council. Earlier this year her colleagues made her the first female chair of that body.
“We also know this (county council) seat will be filled by a woman for the next four years as well,” Newton said, noting her only opponent this fall will be Democrat Lisa Gehrke, a fellow Taylorsville resident.
Before shifting to county politics, Newton served eight years on the Taylorsville Planning Commission and was very active in the city’s mid-1990s incorporation movement.
“The planning commission is such a great place for women to become involved in politics,” she said. “A lot of important decisions are made there, yet many people don’t really know what they do.”
Last year, Newton reached the conclusion, if she wants to see more women active in politics, she ought to offer them some assistance in learning what exactly it involves.
“My ulterior motive is to help make women confident enough to jump in and run for office,” Newton said. “So, I put a little note on Facebook that I was going to offer a free “What’s what in Government” class in my home. A friend of mine, Karyn Facemyer, suggested the idea, and I figured a few people would sign up.”
“If you are more in the know, you have more power in your community,” Facemyer said. “That’s why I asked Aimee to teach the class. I want to be a contributing person. Hopefully, these classes can put a fire under women to get moving.”
Within 24 hours of posting her social media notice, Newton said all 30 slots were filled, one of them by Meredith Harker, who was about two months away from being elected to the Taylorsville City Council.
“I was busy with my campaign at the time, and it was such a good class,” Harker said. “It really helped me on the campaign trail, particularly in better understanding how tax revenues are generated at the different levels of government and what the money can be spent on. I recommend the class highly. Aimee makes a great presentation, and it is very informative.”
Since that initial class, Newton has offered a second one at her home (which again filled quickly). She said another will likely be offered this fall.
“I may also create a kind of follow-up, ‘Government 2.0’ class for people who’ve gone through the first one, where we can go a little more in depth,” she added.
The existing course discusses federal, state, county and city levels of government.
“I find out ahead of time what cities the class members live in to try to focus part of the discussion on their particular area,” Newton added. “There are a lot of different government structures in our many (Salt Lake Valley) cities.”
“I was very inspired by her thinking, about how (women) can change the world one neighborhood at a time,” Jensen said. “Right after attending, I decided to attend community council meetings, and at the very first one it was announced the current chair was leaving. Next thing I knew, I had the job.”
The next free class offering will be posted on the “Aimee Winder Newton - Salt Lake County Councilwoman” Facebook page.