Just before this year's presidential election, a Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation formed. Initially this group started as a way for women to come together and share in their excitement about Hillary Clinton's candidacy. After the devastating loss, the group morphed into a safe space to grieve and share their experiences. Since that time several local splinter groups have formed such as Pantsuit Nation: SC, Lowcountry, and Charleston.
Out of these groups several local meetings have happened as people have come together to meet others who share their same feelings and plan a path forward. I've been lucky enough to attend a few of these meetings and have left truly inspired. Most of the people who have joined these groups are women who may have voted and kept up with the news, but haven't taken that next step and gotten involved with a political party, volunteered for a candidate, or run for office. The election results served as an awakening to many that voting alone may not be enough to keep this country moving on the right track. For a variety of reasons and motivations, they have decided that the time is now to step up and get more directly involved in the political process. For this they should be encouraged and applauded.
Although I don't rock a pantsuit, I stand in strong support of their efforts and their cause. I empathize with their feelings and, if I can be so bold, I would like to suggest a place where the Pantsuit Nation can make a large impact: local government.
When we look at the Charleston community we like to think of ourselves as a progressive and inclusive place. However, when you dive into the details, our local government is far from diverse and inclusive. Let's look at some examples of our local representation.
On the mayoral front, Charleston, North Charleston, James Island, Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island, and Kiawah are all represented by white men, only Mt. Pleasant has a female mayor.
The City of North Charleston gets a lot of credit for having one of the most diverse City Council's both racially and on a gender basis. Three out of 10 of their council members are female.
With the retirement of Colleen Condon, Charleston County Council will start 2017 with 1 out of 9 members being female. That's 11 percent of Council when over 50 percent of voters are female.
The City of Charleston Council is down to 1 out of 12 female council members or 8 percent of council. This is hardly representative of the people who live in the City of Charleston.
The Town of Mt. Pleasant and the Town of James Island deserve special recognition as being filled entirely with white straight men. That's right — not a single woman or person of color to be found in a body that is supposed to representative of all citizens.
The fact that the Department of Justice hasn't looked into these two municipalities is surprising, but regardless this should be changed during the election in 2017.
I understand that running for office can be a daunting task but local government is a great place to start. It's nonpartisan so you don't have to deal with as many of the issues that County and State Representatives are faced with. The cost of entry is also much lower. Most city council races can be won for $10-$20,000 compared to Statehouse races which run over $100,000 to be competitive.
To the incumbents who have had a good long run serving our community I say thank you but watch out. The Pantsuit Nation is growing and it's an army of smart, talented, and well-resourced women who are ready to take over and we should welcome them with open arms.
Brady Quirk-Garvan is the Chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party. He was a pledged delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Committee Convention in Philadelphia. He can be reached at @bradyqg or BradyQG.com.