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The Minot City Council made local history in June when it elected two women to fill the council president and vice president roles.
Lisa Olson was elected president of the council during the June 23 reorganizational meeting after serving as its vice president for two years. After being unanimously named president, Olson nominated newly elected Carrie Evans to be vice president; Evans was also unanimously elected.
It’s believed to be the first time in Minot’s history that both council leadership positions have been held by women.
“It’s not a person’s gender that determines their ability to lead, it’s their skill set,” Olson said. “I think we have two leaders right now that, through their experience, will be able to effectively lead.”
Evans has enjoyed a whirlwind of changes in recent weeks; she’s gone from city council candidate to being sworn in as a council member to being elected council vice president.
“To have two women on the council is great, let alone having two women in positions of leadership,” she said. “I think we’ll be a council that will lead with intelligence and not politics.”
Olson said she had a good idea she would be nominated for council president.
“I had served as vice president and after conversations with Mark Jantzer, I knew he wasn’t looking to continue in the president role,” she said. “So I wasn’t surprised when he nominated me to be president.”
Besides presiding over a council meeting in the mayor’s absence, the council president has other duties, too. The president presents a budget recommendation to the entire council, and often represents the council at public events.
“I think it’s a vote of confidence from my peers,” Olson said. “The position is there for the continuance of government, and in the event the mayor is unable to lead a meeting, I certainly am capable of filling that role on a temporary basis.”
Olson, first elected in June 2010, is the second woman to serve as president of the City Council. Sandra Collins Roggenbuck was president from 1998-2000.
Evans said she had been asked if she was open to being nominated for the vice president role, so she was not surprised when Olson nominated her. The new duties won’t change her approach to being on the council.
“I was very clear on my intentions, my values, and my core principles during my campaign - helping to bring greater transparency to city government and helping to ensure we are accessible and responsive to the people of Minot, and being elected vice president won’t change that,” she said. “Those things will always stay with me regardless of my role on the council.”
Olson said she’s happy to see results from the past couple of years of work by Women Lead, Women Run, a group which formed locally to encourage and support women to be more involved in the political process.
“The mission was to encourage women to run, and to give opportunities for women to be involved in campaigns because not everyone wants to be an actual candidate, but they do want to be involved in the process,” she said.
“I was active with that group from the very beginning, and I think Carrie being elected is a direct result of that group’s efforts,” Olson added. “Through that work we’ve also seen women run for park board, school board, city council, county commission, and the state legislature. It’s definitely been a success.”
Evans has also been active with the Women Lead, Women Run group, and credits Olson with being a local role model for women.
“She’s been very generous with her time and knowledge with me and other women,” Evans said. “Lisa has been a huge supporter of women running for office. One of our hopes in being in these leadership roles is that other women can be encouraged to run for office, too. Minot is a city where that can happen.”
Evans said running for office and being elected has validated her thoughts about Minot when she returned to the city three years ago. She grew up in Minot, but left in 1990.
“When I moved back three years ago, Minot was very different than the Minot I left in 1990. I am a lesbian and I didn’t feel I could stay here in 1990,” she said. “To return and discover the new and improved Minot was so affirming on so many levels. About four months ago I told my parents that I was staying, and that I was going to double down and run for office. For me, it was the right time.”
Evans praised Olson for being a leader during her 10 years on City Council, and for helping make Minot a more welcoming community.
“I think the rest of the state is really taking a look at Minot,” Evans said. “I’m elected as an open lesbian, Lisa is elected council president, and I’m elected vice president…Minot is special and unique. It’s 2020, and I believe residents can be proud of their city and its leadership.”