A new Iowa law will eventually require all appointed boards, commissions, committees and councils to be gender balanced. Some local officials say they favor the idea of gender balancing — but say in practice it could make it difficult to fill the vacant positions.
Grinnell Mayor Gordon Canfield lobbied against the bill before it passed the legislature. Canfield says the reason he was against the law is that is "very, very difficult" to get anybody who is qualified to volunteer for the positions.
Canfield says he has always tried to keep a balance when making appointments. Canfield says he looked at the list of appointees and found there were one or two more men than women, but says it was fairly well balanced.
The mayor says getting someone with the knowledge needed for a particular position is always the first priority. "Although we strive for gender balance, the overall goal on any committee appointment is to get the most well qualified person. And, I look at that first and gender second," Canfield says.
Poweksheik County Commissioner Doug Shutts says he is concerned about meeting the balance when there are multiple vacancies. He says if there are two or three people that resign at one time, it puts them under pressure to first get the spots filled to have a quorum, and then to be sure there’s gender balance.
The new law exempts cities that have less than 1,000 residents and board that require a professional license or technical expertise. If a spot goes unfilled for three months, a new member can be appointed regardless of gender. The law goes into effect in 2012.