Two of northwest Ohio’s newest county commissioners have a lot in common: They’re both women in a male-dominated position, and they just happen to be sisters-in-law.
Holly Stacy, a Republican who was elected Seneca County commissioner in November, is married to the younger brother of Doris Herringshaw, a Republican appointed by her party earlier this month to replace former Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown.
Ms. Herringshaw’s father, Dale Stacy, was a Seneca County commissioner from 1966 to 1982. Her grandfather, Clyde Stacy, was a commissioner in the same county from 1946 until his death in a farming accident in 1956.
It’s a family legacy of public service from which both women took their cues.
“Probably the thing that I remember most was going to all those chicken barbecues and pancake breakfasts in places in Seneca County that I didn’t even know existed,” Ms. Herringshaw, 63, said with a laugh. “The other thing that I remember is back in those days, you did Sunday afternoon drives — that was your family activity. Ours always had a destination of a bridge, a road — something that needed to be repaved or looked at.”
Now, she will be the one charged with paying attention when there’s a road or bridge or ditch that needs attention in the county. One of the first issues that will bring the sisters-in-law together for county business, in fact, will be the long-running effort to clean out the east and south branches of the Portage River — a massive project that dips into Wood, Seneca, and Hancock counties.
“We have a meeting on that Jan. 28,” Ms. Stacy noted.
“In my county,” her sister-in-law added.
Ms. Stacy, 49, a native of Vickery, Ohio, in Sandusky County, said she grew up in a “nonpolitical family,” but she started hanging around the Stacy family after meeting her now-husband, Douglas Stacy, when both were sophomores at Ohio State University.
“After getting to know the Stacys... that was what sparked my interest to learn what this was all about and get involved,” she said.
Dale Stacy, who served as commissioner in an era when few if any women held office, said his daughter and daughter-in-law are well-educated and have lots of experience.
“They’re both well-qualified, more qualified than I was,” the 88-year-old said. “They have a lot more things on the table than they did when I was there. Things were a lot simpler 40 years ago."
Unlike Ms. Herringshaw, this was not Ms. Stacy’s first run for office. She was elected to two terms on the Old Fort school board, ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2008, then made an unsuccessful bid for state representative in 2010.
After defeating incumbent Commissioner Dave Sauber in the GOP primary in March, she let her employer, the Sandusky County Chamber of Commerce, know she would be leaving her post as president and chief executive officer in December. She has a master’s degree in business administration from Tiffin University.
Ms. Herringshaw, who has a doctorate in leadership and policy studies from Bowling Green State University, retired in 2011 after a long career with the OSU Extension Service.
The two women are joining a still-select group of women who serve as county commissioners in Ohio. In their own counties, each is only the second woman to hold the office.
Statewide, fewer than 16 percent of all commissioners are women. In northwest Ohio, the only others are Jo Ellen Regal in Ottawa County and Carol Contrada and Tina Skeldon Wozniak in Lucas County.
Ms. Wozniak, who also followed in the footsteps of her father, the late Ned Skeldon, as a county commissioner, said she’s excited to see more women joining local and state leadership roles.
“Women historically have been seen as very nurturing, very civic-minded, very willing to get their hands dirty and get the work done, but oftentimes as a back role. They don’t see themselves as the one who should be more front and center,” Ms. Wozniak said.
“Women do a nice job in problem solving,” she added. “They also do a nice job in bringing people together in making decisions. They’re very much consensus-builders.”
Ms. Herringshaw said she thinks some women may be afraid of the time commitment a job like commissioner entails. Ms. Stacy said some — like herself — need a shot of self-confidence.
“I had the interest. I needed to build my confidence. I needed to know women can do this,” she said. “There are not many role models.”
She completed the Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute — a program “created to encourage and train women in business and civic leadership to assume more prominent roles, either elected or appointed, in government and in the Republican Party,” according to its Web site. Ms. Herringshaw is enrolled in the eight-month program.
“It’s a phenomenal program, a phenomenal group of women,” Ms. Herringshaw said. “Everyone is just over the top.”
While Ms. Herringshaw took the oath of office shortly before her first board of commissioners meeting last week, she will be formally sworn in at 11 a.m. Friday on the fifth floor of the County Office Building. The event is open to the public.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.