Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Women on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners

There are four people running for county commissioner in Montgomery County, two Republican, two Democrats, two men, two women. Each party has endorsed a man and a woman. The possibility that two women could be elected to serve on the board at the same time made me wonder if that would be a first for the county. It would not.

For background, there are three commissioners on the board, with at least one representative of each party. Usually two candidates from each party run and the top three vote getters take office. This year the Republican team is incumbent Bruce Castor and Lower Merion Township Commissioner Jenny Brown (I cannot find a website for them either as a team or individually). The Democrats have endorsed State Rep. Josh Shapiro and Whitemarsh Township Supervisor Leslie Richards (

It is a relatively recent development for women to be elected to the board at all. Rita C. Banning was the first. She ran in 1975 and lost, ran again in 1979 and won. Taking office in 1980, she was the only Democrat, serving with Republicans Paul Bartle and Allan C. Myers.

In the 1983 election Banning won re-election, as did Bartle and Myers. Halfway through their term, in 1986, Myers died and Betty Linker was appointed to serve out his term, which meant that two women were on the board, one Republican and one Democrat.

Four years later both all three (Banning, Bartle, and Linker) were returned to office. Linker died in 1989 and another Republican woman, Floriana Bloss, was appointed, meaning that there were again two women on the board.

Bloss did not run lost the Republican primary in 1991; and neither did Banning did not run. Three men were elected, Democrat Joe Hoeffel, and Republicans Mario Mele and Jon Fox. They took office in January, 1992. Two years later Fox was elected to Congress and was replaced by Richard Buckman.

Those three were returned to office in 1996, but Hoeffel resigned in 1998 when he was elected to Congress. Jim Maza replaced him on the board, keeping it an all male preserve.

Nearly ten years after Rita Banning and Floriana Bloss left office another woman joined the county board. In 1999 Democrat Ruth Damsker, along with Republicans Jim Mathews and Michael Marino were elected.

In the 2003 election Tom Ellis took the place of Marino and both Damsker and Mathews were re-elected.

In the 2007 election Damsker ran with Joe Hoeffel against Jim Mathews and Bruce Castor. Hoeffel was elected but Damsker was not. So, starting in 2008 the board was a boy’s club again.

Now in 2011, it is clear that barring any unforeseen events a woman will be elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners again. Either Democrat Leslie Richards or Republican Jenny Brown will be elected, and possibly both. If that does happen it would be the first time since 1986 that two women were in that office at the same time.

Selected Sources:

Byrd, Jerry W., "Betty Boger Linker, 67, commissioner in Montco," Philadelphia Inquirer October 22, 1989

"Floriana Bloss sworn in as Montco Commissioner," Morning Call Nov. 16, 1989

Infield, Tom, "Montco GOP pays for its infighting," Philadelphia Inquirer December 20, 2007

Lounsberry, Emilie, "Montco election is the usual bland contest," Philadelphia Inquirer April 21, 1983

Rozansky, Michael, "Montco's Democratic watchdog calls it quits," Philadelphia Inquirer December 30, 1991.

various web sites


Anonymous said...

Hi Jane - minor correction. Flo Bloss did run in 1991 with Paul Bartle, but both lost in the Republican Primary to Jon Fox and Mario Mele.

AboveAvgJane said...

Thanks! I made the correction.