Pops of color stood out on the Kansas Senate’s floor as female legislators donned pink Monday to honor women in public service.
Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, said 15 women serve in the Senate and 32 in the House, making up 28.5 percent of the Kansas Legislature.
Female leaders from Shawnee County were also recognized including Topeka mayor Michelle De La Isla, city councilwoman Karen Hiller, Topeka Public Schools board members Janel Johnson and Peg McCarthy and Shawnee Heights board members Renae Hansen and Lauren Tice Miller.
Pettey said the 2017 elections proved decisive for local female candidates.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, noted that De La Isla became Topeka’s first Hispanic mayor and the second woman to be elected as the city’s leader in November.
“It’s great that we’re celebrating it right now, but I really look forward to the day that we’re not celebrating it anymore because it’s normal,” De La Isla said.
She said it is important to have diverse representation.
“We need to have all sides,” De La Isla said. “The beauty of our government is the fact that we have several points of views, life experiences and diversity, that makes making decisions balanced.”
De La Isla, who overcame homelessness and an abusive relationship, is also the diversity and inclusion representative for Westar Energy.
The Shawnee Heights school board is now majority female which Pettey described as “a rarity for Kansas school districts.”
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, recognized Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, who was the body’s first female senate president, and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, who was the first female African-American state senator.
“Kansas has a very strong history of women in politics,” Schmidt said.
Pettey said the first woman elected to the Kansas Senate was Patricia Solander in 1929.
March 19 was recognized as Kansas Celebrating Women in Public Office Day.