With an announcement Thursday that she’s running for Maryville City Council in November, comes the possibility Sarah Herron, Blount County Democratic Party chair, may make history.
A woman has never served on the council before. In addition, Maryville is the only primary governing body in the county currently without female leadership.
According to records on the Blount County Election Commission’s website, no women have been on the Maryville City Council ballot since at least 2008.
But recent history proves there were actually two women in the running for a seat on the council and, Mayor Tom Taylor said, nearly won.
It was an unprecedented situation, however.
There was a tied vote in 2008 after Councilman Ron Ivan died in office. Two sitting council members voted for Dede Christopher and two for Teresa Horn.
“We went through about three renditions of the vote and couldn’t break the tie,” Taylor remembered. “It was sort of down to those two women. So, to break the tie, someone nominated Fred Metz as an alternate.”
Metz won, and it took five votes for that to happen, according to reporting from The Daily Times in November of that year. Then-Mayor Joe Swann and Vice Mayor Taylor voted for Christopher.
Councilman Andy White voted for for Metz, and Councilman Tommy Hunt for Teresa Horn.
On the final ballot, Swann, White and Hunt all voted for Metz and Taylor held out for Christopher.
Taylor said the lack of a woman on the council could be down to “the fact that people don’t have much to complain about in the way of city government.”
He explained that there have been a lack of complaints, no large platforms to run on, and people end up staying on council because no one opposes them, Taylor explained.
“There has to be a burning issue for somebody to run against the incumbents,” he added. “But I think Maryville is receptive to having a woman on the council.”
There’s no bias, Taylor said, pointing to the some of the city’s female office heads: Public Services Director Angie Luckie, Human Resources Manager Leslie Crawford and Administrative Services and Communications Director Jane Groff.
Taylor’s council seat is open for the Nov. 3 election, as is Swann’s. According to petitions filed and issued up to July, Swann has not yet confirmed a run.
Glenda Eastridge, president of the nonpartisan Blount County League of Women Voters, emphasized the importance of voting, regardless of a candidate’s gender.
“But it is important that we have people of color and females because they’re going to be supportive or bring forth ideas that are important for that gender or that particular culture,” Eastridge said. “We need variety, but the bottom line is, the candidate who supports the issue that you feel strongly about is who you’re going to vote for.”
Herron noted in her announcement — which she emailed to The Daily Times — Women’s Equality Day is celebrated Aug. 26, the same day she’ll launch her campaign: 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s adoption, which granted U.S. women the right to vote.
“Women bring an important perspective,” her statement reads. “If I’m elected, Maryville would have someone who is looking at issues through the lens of a mother and of a daughter with aging parents. Plus, I offer something City Council needs now more than ever — digital experience.”
The last day for candidates to submit a petition to be on the ballot is Aug. 20.