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'Giving Women a Try'

By Anne DE Hayden neal

When Margaret Hance ran for mayor of Phoenix, Arizona this fall, she made one thing perfectly clear. "I'm no yes-man," Hance told the voters. As two-term City-Councillor and former vice mayor, Hance was no newcomer to city politics. Her experience stretched over a period of 20 years and included roles in over 15 organizations. To no one's surprise, when November rolled around, Hance won every Phoenix precinct in an eight-way mayoral election. Her win made Phoenix the largest United States city under a woman's jurisdiction.

Hance's election followed the successful bid made one year ago by Janet Gray Hayes for the mayoralty of San Jose, Calif. Calling for a "better not bigger" San Jose, Hayes edged out former police detective "Black Bart" Collins to become the first female mayor of a city of over 500,000 population.

To both women, Harvard's Institute of Politics gave recognition of sorts last weekend by including them in a special seminar on Mayoral Leadership and Transition. As two of the nation's three big-city women mayors, (the third is in San Antonio), Hance and Hayes proved that as "Madam Mayors" they're not just token females.

"Both women mayors made very high marks," Frank Logue, mayor-elect of New Haven, Conn. said Monday. "They made some of the most outstanding contributions of the entire conference." Contribution was indeed the name of the game, for as both Hance and Hayes will admit, they are unavoidably visible role models in an area which has seen far too few females. "There's no question about it," says Hayes. "This will be a Dick and Jane society until people recognize that women have the ability and responsibility to do the job. Right now there is an alienation against men--a feeling that they have made such a mess, why not give women a try. I'm glad to have the opportunity to do so. But it's also a great responsibility. If I mess up, I'll discourage women from running for elective office."

Hance shares this concern for increased female political participation. Her effort in Phoenix included revamping city personnel practices to encourage women's upward mobility.

Concern for women, however, played only a small part in both mayoral elections. "I have never run as a woman's candidate, but as a qualified candidate," says Hance. "Men have stopped fearing women in positions of authority--they've seen them perform well and competently. I am not an active feminist and have not taken a stand on ERA. Were I to do so, I would be less valuable to the city of Phoenix in dealing with the state legislature."

Both mayors admit that a feminist stereotype is too restrictive for the role they envision in city politics. "I am sympathetic to feminist causes," admits Hayes, "but I represent all my constituents. My major interest is representing all the voters, not just the women."

To that end, both women--running as Independents--emphasized their experience. According to Martha Shultz, chief assistant to Hance, male chauvinism was a campaign problem that could not be ignored. "We had to prove that as a woman Mayor Hance could still make the hard decisions," Shultz said. "Our strategies were designed to show her strength and experience."

After extended surveys, Hayes found similar stumbling blocks. "We did a poll that showed that everything being equal, voters would vote for a man," Hayes reports. "So we downplayed that I was female and played up that I was more qualified as a candidate." Out of 125,000 votes cast Hayes finally won by only 1667.

To make the campaign easier, Hance and Hayes had the full backing of their families. Hance, who is a widow, had her three grown children working in the campaign. Hayes's family was likewise supportive, with her doctor husband contributing financially. Hayes nevertheless admits her son did not at first want her to run. "My son was just a Victorian male chauvinist teenager at the time," recounts Hayes. "Now he's proud that I tried for the job."

Both women admit that ten years ago they would not have made an elective bid. "Phoenix is a conservative town; there were not enough visible women in politics, courts or appointive offices at that time," says Hance. "An 18-hour day would also have demanded too much time away from my growing family."

For the last 10 years, however both women have been actively involved in volunteer organizations. Hayes's previous civic activities include presidency of the League of Women Votes of the San Francisco Bay area, campaign manager for the 1968 City Housing Referendum election and first woman on the board of directors of the San Jose Metropolitan YMCA. Hance was at one time president of the Phoenix Junior League in addition to serving on the board of directors of Valley National Bank and as a member of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board. As one-time writer-producer of the Holiday World Radio Travel Show, Hance was also a member of the Phoenix Press Club.

Both women attribute a good deal of their success to contacts made through volunteer organizations and civic committees. "Because of my past experience I had no problem presiding," says Hance. "Through volunteering, I had to learn discipline, work habits, and a broad knowledge of the community. As a volunteer you get to see government from the outside. There's a better viewpoint there than for a man tied up in his profession."

To Hance's way of thinking, that viewpoint also helps women govern. "A woman's way of looking at things in government is a different approach. She is more aware of juvenile problems because she is more aware of juvenile problems because she lives with the children. Her way of looking is not necessarily better, just a different perspective. She's less afraid to ask questions, and not embarrassed to admit that she doesn't know something."

With that in mind, both mayors admitted on Monday that their questions would soon be forthcoming. Hayes faces a series of problems in San Jose including a court-order busing decision and increasing demands to expand San Jose without, she feels, improving existing neighborhoods' services.

Both mayors agree that the social issues in the '60s which were cities' primary concern have now given way to a pressing fiscal conservatism. "Economic values overshadow every other need," says Hance. "I'm concerned with providing the climate to attract business and construction in our area--to have sufficient revenue for Phoenix needs. At the same time, I'll take a hard look at the federal programs we seek out. There is a reluctance to accept federal programs blindly. Citizens of Phoenix are not ready to funnel money to New York City. They have no disposition to bail out other administrations for their mismanagement."

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