Desire to Make a Difference Motivated First Woman Commissioner
February 5, 2009
Tracey Glenn’s Story
One day while watching my local news, I heard a story about corruption in our local housing authority. This story topped the local news for months. During this time it was discovered that a two-term incumbent in the County Commissioner’s office had family ties to one of those that the corruption centered around.
Being involved in many professional and community service organizations, I was outraged that this type of negative publicity was tarnishing the image of our community. So, instead of sitting around and complaining, I decided to give it a shot and run for the Commissioner’s seat.
I ran the idea by my family and close friends, thinking they would tell me “Are you crazy?” Their reaction was the opposite. Their reactions ranged from my kids cheering, “Go for it, Mom!” to my husband and father both replying “Well, it’s about time.” I guess they saw something in me that I didn’t!
As soon as I formally announced my candidacy, I was met by conflicting reactions from the public. Those actively involved in our County political party were divided: some thought I would make a quality candidate, some thought I had no chance being new to the political scene, and some thought a women could never be elected in this predominately male elected official area of rural America. After all, there had never been a women elected County Commissioner in the history of our County! And, only one had ever even attempted the journey, but did not make it past the primary.
After a long primary (I was one of four candidates) I was elected our party’s candidate and I moved on to the battle for the general election. Keep in mind; I said earlier I was going against a two-term incumbent!
The media was front and center through the entire campaign. I participated in numerous interviews with various media and local organizations for their endorsements, attended “Meet the Candidate” forums, and answered questions on my stand on local issues during a much-heated primary debate. I accepted an invitation to debate the incumbent during the general election, but he refused….a decision I never quite understood.
On Election Day I knew I had done everything possible. I knew one way or another I could go to bed that night and sleep well even if I lost. I waited in the basement of our courthouse as the results of each precinct were tabulated. The election was called in my favor after only 26 of 63 precincts, but I refused to accept the win until every precinct was counted. Afterall, if presidential election results could result in erroniously printed daily papers the day after an election, what made me think this local county election could not do the same. I wanted to see each and every precinct contribute to the total before I conducted any media interviews.
And so, as soon as the final precinct was counted, I began to accept the realization that I had indeed won. I was now officially the first woman elected to the office of Williamson County Commissioner. I had made local history!
Now two years into a six-year term, I am now Chairman of the Board. Some have questioned me on the politically correct term for that position and I always respond, “I don’t get caught up on titles. I am one Commissioner of a three Commissioner Board. We are a team.”
Yes I still fight the “good ol’ boy” network. Some of those in that inner circle still have a hard time accepting the fact that I am in this position, but that’s ok. I just keep doing what I know is best for our County, setting political differences aside. I make decisions for every resident of this county, not just those that voted for me.
Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story. My advice to any women considering a run at political office…..DO IT!
Commissioner, Williamson County, Illinois