When the McKinney City Council made the move to fill its vacant District 1 seat on Dec. 1, the move came as a moment to examine the makeup of the council itself.
At least, that’s how one McKinney resident felt.
Julie Luton, addressing council members during a Dec. 1 meeting, said she saw the City Council as a group of people trying to move forward and advance the city’s interests. However, she also saw something else.
“I also see a council that does not have a representative from 50% of this community,” she said. “I don’t see our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our mothers.”
The McKinney City Council, comprising six men as of Dec. 19, hasn’t seen a female member since former councilwoman Tracy Rath ended her term in the spring of 2019. According to Collin County election result records, since 2009, 42 men have run for McKinney City Council Seats while eight women have run. In that time span, two women have won their bid for a spot on the City Council.
“And that does not diminish in any way your commitment to the city,” Luton said on Dec. 1, “but it does mean you don’t have the diversity of opinion and thought, the rich experiences that females could bring to this City Council.”
When the City Council on Dec. 1 discussed appointing a new member to replace former District 1 representative La’Shadion Shemwell, two names had been brought forward from east McKinney representatives as suggested appointees: Angela Richardson-Woods, McKinney Community Development Corporation treasurer, and Pastor Chris Thornton. Thornton was the community’s ultimate recommendation, and he was appointed on Dec. 1.
Before officially appointing Thornton, Councilman Frederick Frazier said he had been supportive of Richardson-Woods joining the City Council, but that she did not want to give up her seat on the corporation.
“Everyone knows that I’m a big fan of Angela’s, that I was a big fan of having a female voice on this City Council,” Frazier said. “I hope at one point when my term’s up, and I don’t run, more females run in these races, because we don’t have enough. And that’s just a fact.”
During her tenure as a city councilwoman, Rath was the only female serving on the dais. She was also McKinney’s first female mayor pro tem. However, she doesn’t remember her gender playing a large role in her voice on the council. For her, it was more about the fact that she had lived longer in McKinney and was older than her fellow council members. She also had experience working in the city.
“I took on (The McKinney Community Development Corporation) in the early 2000s and again in the late 2000s, so from that perspective, I felt like more of my background, or kind of my experience in volunteering, set me apart more so than my gender,” she said.
However, Rath, who has been involved in McKinney since the late 1980s, has noted a lack of diversity in who runs for office.
“It primarily has been men that have chosen to run,” she said. “Very few women and very few minorities.”
When it comes to identifying why, Rath said it may come down to who is willing to commit the time, effort and money that goes into running for the position.
“Politics are a very unfortunately nasty game, even locally, so you've got to have pretty thick skin to do it, and you've got to have a love to serve,” Rath said. “And that's open to everybody, so I guess I've always felt like the people that really feel called to do that, that want to do that, that are willing to put their lives on hold in a lot of ways to do that, do it, and those that don't, don't.”
She said she wanted people who have a heart for being on the council and who are willing to make the sacrifice to run.
“Certainly I wish a lot more people would run,” she said. “I find it crazy that until the last couple of council elections, we had people running unopposed. That was crazy.”
Rath said she ran for the City Council because she had the time to.
“I mean, that's No. 1,” Rath said. “My children were older, it was just a good time, and I thought why the heck not?”
Rath said she wished more people would take the opportunity and time to run for a City Council seat, but that she also understood how big the commitment was.
For those who might be considering a City Council run in the future, Rath said to reach out to meet with City Manager Paul Grimes, McKinney Mayor George Fuller or other current City Council members.
“The worst thing that comes out of that meeting is that you get to know your council person or your city staff person a little better, and I think you gain some really great perspective that may help you decide to run,” she said. “But anybody remotely interested, I say run, run, run.”
After Thornton stepped down due to an inability to serve as a District 1 representative, Mayor George Fuller suggested holding a special meeting on Monday to appoint Richardson-Woods.
“She was liked very much by the group that did participate in vetting and having meetings with the different people that were interested in seeking appointment,” Fuller said.
The McKinney City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Monday to consider appointing a new member to the City Council.