Looking at Washington County government, you’ll see there’s not a whole lot of diversity.
“All five of our county commissioners are white men, the board of education is slightly more diverse, there’s some women. But, we don’t have women in elected office, we don’t have anyone of color,” said Kira Hamman, chair of Citizens Above Partisanship Political Action Committee.
Citizens Above Partisanship hosted a panel discussion with many former candidates to get their take on why there’s a lack of diversity.
“So, there are systems at play that make it hard for different perspectives and different affiliated persons to be in county government,” said Andrew Barnhart, a panelist and a member of the Green party.
Barnhart ran for the House of Delegates this past election simply because he wanted there to be a challenge for the Republican incumbents. Even though he lost, he says it’s important to have different perspectives within any government.
“In a thriving democracy, you have multiple parties with multiple points of view coming together and having constructive dialogue,” said Barnhart.
One of the panelists was Harry Jones. Jones initially ran for county commissioner, but had to pull out of the race because he is a federal employee. The next election cycle he says he’ll be retired, making him eligible to run. He says with the county becoming more diverse, it’s important to have a diverse body of commissioners for minority communities.
“They feel more comfortable coming up to, whether it be a commissioner, whether it be city council, and they’re able to, I guess, able to talk more and explain the different sense of the community,” said Jones.