To find qualified candidates in their area, local governments can explore the database being developed by the Friends of ICSW of Iowa women willing to serve locally. Contacting community clubs and organizations (even appropriate statewide organizations) about the skill set required of a potential appointee is also an easy but effective way to discover new talent.
Download the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women's Guide for Cities and Counties which provides a number of ideas that are easy to implement and surprisingly effective. The Iowa law states that no more than a simple majority of appointed members shall be of one gender (e.g., a commission of five can have three men and two women or three women and two men). If after 90 days of making a “good faith effort” to achieve gender balance a county or city is unable to make an appointment, the opening may be filled regardless of balance.
Gender balance on state-level boards and commissions has been required since 1987. In 2009, the Iowa Legislature extended this expectation to county and city boards and commissions, effective January 1, 2012.
Though some board and commission seats won’t expire for some time, cities and counties never know when they may have an unexpected vacancy. Moreover, some local boards and commissions have many long-term members, and recruiting other qualified individuals now will provide ample time for mentoring and skill development as “the torch” of leadership is passed.
Why should you target specific types of people to join local boards and commissions?
You likely already know why recruitment is important in and of itself—serving on a board or commission is a significant and meaningful way for citizens to participate in civic life. Diversity of experiences is critical in developing representative and balanced local practices and policies. Actively seeking out new members will create more visibility of the board or commission’s presence in the area, showing its commitment to the community’s well-being.
Recruitment may also attract qualified individuals who had never thought to work in local decision making or politics before. Diversity of board and commission membership, be it race, gender, age, or other factors, may help cities and counties more effectively communicate with and serve more citizens. Further, citizens in your community—like anywhere—are busy and likely already have commitments. It’s important to demonstrate to them the benefits they will receive by serving. Members get to share expertise while directly participating in shaping the local community. For some, serving on a board or commission can lead to higher leadership opportunities.