At least four cities and towns in Utah appear to have elected their first women mayors this week: West Valley City, Park City, Parowan and North Logan.
Just 17% of Utah mayors are women, according to a January 2021 report from the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University. That’s still a 9% increase from 2017.
“It just represents an embracing of the future,” said Lyndsay Peterson, North Logan’s apparent mayor-elect. “I just have a lot of hope that the perspectives that I have are going to be reflective of a bigger swath of that broader community… and I’m excited for the decisions that are going to come out as a result of that.”
Nann Worel appears to have unseated Park City Mayor Andy Beerman. She said she sometimes came across some pretty explicit sexism on the campaign trail.
“People would tell me that they would never vote for a woman and that was kind of hard to hear,” she said. “It was shocking to hear the first time. … My reaction was, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that. I’d love to tell you about my qualifications.’”
Worel said she hopes her win will encourage other women to run for elected office.
“It’s the role model for other young women that are considering serving their community either as a council member or as a mayor,” she said. “It shows that anything is possible. You can work really hard and accomplish things.”
This years’ election results are part of a larger trend of more women running for office, according to Susan Madsen, the director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.
“Throughout the decades, leadership or politicians have been seen as men,” she said. “Maybe we’re at that shift where we’re starting to think of a politician and maybe we’re starting to think man or woman.”
Madsen said it’s a snowball effect and she expects it to lead to even more women in office in the future.
“When you start seeing women in key places, that changes your mindset,” she said. “There’s a cycle with that and then more women believe that you can be a woman politician, you can use your voice.”
Madsen’s group hasn’t done any studies in Utah on the impact of having more women in office. But, national research shows there’s a big difference in the type of policies that get passed when more women are in power.
“Generally speaking, when you look at states that have more women in their state Legislature, they allocate more funding towards education, towards health care, towards social problems like poverty and homelessness,” she said. “When there are women, generally things are different and they represent more of society.”
One big difference in Utah is education. According to the Utah Foundation, women voters in the state listed K-12 education as their top priority. Among men, it ranked sixth.