Membership is open to women and men 16 years and older. LWV Kent has a commitment to a diverse membership. We will build a diverse organization that supports a community of respect, celebration and empowerment for people of all backgrounds, generations and cultures to participate in government. Interested in membership? lwvkmembership [at] gmail.com (Email us). Ready to join? Go here.
On March 17, 1953, a group of women met at the home of Mrs. Robert White to discuss formation of a Kent League of Women Voters. The meeting had been arranged by Mrs. White and Mrs. Herbert VanMeter, former League members in Burlington, Iowa, and Oberlin, Ohio, respectively. Mrs. Klinger of Warren, Ohio, and a member of the board of the League of Women Voter's of Ohio, led a discussion of the League, its purpose, programs and organization. As a result, a nominating committee was chosen.
At the first meeting of the Provisional League of Women Voters of Kent on April 21, 1953, Mrs. J. Hale Myers was elected president. "Know Your Town" was the first topic for study. The Kent League, with Mrs. Myers as president, was formally recognized in April 1954. Voter-service work was initiated with the distribution of information about the primary election. Wider distribution resulted when the League's Candidates Bulletin was published in the local newspaper, the Record-Courier, in 1956. It later became known as the Voter's Guide.
From then on, a succession of presidents and dedicated members carried on and built upon the legacy of the organization's founding members. Below is a list of past presidents of the Kent League of Women Voters and the years they served:
- Mrs. J. Hale Myers (1953-1955)
- Mrs. John B. Nicholson Jr. (1955-1959)
- Mrs. Thomas Marshall (1959-1962)
- Mrs. F. Dewey Amner (1962-1963)
- Mrs. Parker LaBach (1963-1965)
- Edith Chase (1965-1967)
- Pat Reed (1967-1969)
- Virginia Motycka (1969-1971)
- Pat Sattler (1971-1973)
- Sylvia Coogan (1973-1975)
- Nancy Wenniger (1975-1979)
- Jo Ann Zaynor (1979-1981)
- Carol Murphy (1981-1983)
- Jane Preston Rose (1983-1985)
- Roberta O'Keefe (1985-1987)
- Kathleen Downing Pownall (1987-1989)
- Jan Rusnack (1989-1991)
- Gail Pytel (1991-1993)
- Anita Bixenstine (1993-1996)
- "T.B. Deter" (1996-1997)
- Amie Cajka (1997-1999)
- Jo Ann Zaynor (1999-2000)
- Nena Hankins (2000-2003)
- Jan Rusnack (2003-2005)
- Barb Hipsman-Springer (2005-2008)
- Terrie Nielsen (2008-2011)
- Roberta O'Keefe (2011-2013)
- Iris Meltzer (2013-2017)
- Stacia Yaniglos (2017- 2020)
- Deborah Barber (2020 - Present)
To read about the history of the League of Women Voters of Kent as told by our presidents, click the links below for 65 years of "Making Democracy Work."
LWV Kent has been a constant force in the Portage County for providing candidate forums, voter education, voter registration and moderating community candidate events. In 2014, the organization initiated a small group format of meeting with candidates where community members sit with candidates at round tables and briefly get to know the candidate. They post questions directly and can take the measure of a candidate up close and personal. The format, Voters and Candidates Face 2 Face, happens in the Spring and Fall about the time early voting starts.
The group also initiated an annual event recognizing women who have dedicated their careers to public service. The event, Conversations with Women in Public Service, has provided insight into how women see the need for strong leadership to improve the civic, educational and governmental aspects of community life. Past conversations have been with: The Honorable Kathleen Chandler, Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito, KSU President Dr. Carol Cartwright, Judge Barbara Watson, Portage Park Director Christine Craycroft, Dr. Alfreda Brown of Kent State University, The Honorable Kathleen Clyde, The Honorable Ann Womer Benjamin, Hiram College President Dr. Lori Varlotta, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio CEO Iris E. Harvey, Ed.S., MBA, M.L. Schultze, Digital Editor, Reporter and Producer for WKSU and Jane Christyson, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio.
In 2018, a committee formed within LWV Kent to develop a youth voter education program with the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio. They named it The VOTER Girl Project. League members use their knowledge of voting and advocacy to help scouts from Daisies to high school age earn citizenship badges that promote the ideals Leagues cherish. The inaugural year was 2017. 200 scouts attended. LWV Kent went on to register the VGP logo and market the project to other Leagues as a fundraiser. Year 2 is coming up in 2018. The project will be happening in other League areas around the country.
Members are especially proud of the work done in 2017 by our League and Leagues across Ohio to pass Issue 1 which created a bi-partisan, public process for drawing congressional districts. LWV Kent worked hard on gathering petition signatures, and along with the thousands gathered across the state, forced state elected officials to work together for the ballot issue. We also participated in the campaign to establish a bi-partisan system for redistricting on the state level.
Another milestone for the organization has been to work on a plan to become a more diverse organization, reflecting the community. Started in 2016, the Board of Directors has developed a committee structure for outreach and to align LWV Kent programs, communications and member relations to reflect the committment.
The League of Women Voters of Kent serves the residents of Kent, Ravenna and southern Portage County. Residents of cities and towns in Northern Portage County are served by the League of Women Voters of Northern Portage County. For more information about the Northern Portage County League, call (330) 562-8410.
The League of Women Voters of Kent has an organizational structure consiting of a board of directors, including four officers and up to 14 directors. The officers are president (or coordinator), vice presidents, secretary and treasurer. Directors chair a specific program areas, such as membership, communications, land use and environment and education.
The LWVK has committees whose members become well-versed on a range of topics with varying degrees of volunteer time commitment. To volunteer for a committee or to learn more about its purpose, click here. A brief description of each committee is provided below:
- Land Use and Zoning - This committee studies issues pertaining to local land use, preservation of natural resources and the promotion of an environment beneficial to life. The committee studies issues such as the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest, and the governmental regulation of land use and zoning to create resident-friendly, sustainable communities in Portage County.
- Voter's Guide - A Voters Guide including information on candidates and issues is compiled and published before primary and general elections. The guide has been published in the Record-Courier, the local daily newspaper, for more than fifty years.
- Voter Service - This committee's tasks includes voter registration drives, candidates meetings and get-out-the-vote drives. This committee performs the best-known function of the League services to voters. The group's activities include encouraging citizens to register to vote and vote in all elections and participate in government and politics.
- Education - This committee, when activated, reviews the current position on Kent City School. It will undertake updates when directed by the membershipor oversee new education studies.
- Government - This committee, when activated, reviews the current position on Kent City Charter, Kent City Finances, Parks and Recreation. It will undertake updates when directed by the membership or oversee new government-related studies.
- Communications - The League's newsletter, The VOTER, is published quarterly and provides information on Kent League activities and other items of interest to the membership. This committee works to educate the public about the Kent League's positions and encourage citizen participation in the political process. Email blasts are sent regularly to remind members about events. LWV Kent is on Facebook and Instagram.
- Diversity- This committee is resposible for integrating our diversity goals and values into the every aspect of the organization.
- Finance/Fund Drive - Usually two committees, the members work on the annual budget and plan and implement fund-raising activities.
- Membership - This group recruits new members at various types of functions and helps them become familiar with the Leagues activities, positions and volunteer opportunities within the Kent League.
- Portage County Justice System - This committee is responsible for updating the League's position on the justice system, taking into account changes that have occurred since the original position was adopted.
- Policies and Bylaws - When activated. this committee is responsible for reviewing the League's bylaws, policies and procedures to see if they have kept up with changes in local, state and national League information.
- Positions & Priorities - Every January, this committee heads an effort to review the Kent League's positions on issues. On alternating years, either state or national issues will be reviewed as well to determine if they still serve the purpose for which they were developed. Positions can be retained, updated or dropped.
- Observer Corps - This group monitors and observes meetings of local, regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the League; rather, they attend meetings to listen, learn and submit written, factual reports (as opposed to interpetive ones) of the proceedings they have observed. Reports are retained in the League's files and printed in its newsletter as space is available.
The League of Women Voters of Kent takes a position on an issue only after an official study has been conducted, a consensus of what that position should be has been reached and the League's board has approved the wording. These positions are on a range of topics, such as parks and recreation, Kent city charter, Portage County Justice System and Kent city schools. To read more about these and other position statements, click here.
- Kent Environmental Council - The League also partners with the Kent Environmental Council by joining as a sponsor for the KEC's annual Edith Chase Symposium on the Northeast Ohio environment and other related programs. For more information on the Kent Environmental Council, click here.
- Kent Interfaith Council
- Portage NAACP
- Kent Lions
- Kent State Votes
- NAMI Portage County
- KSU Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity
- League of Women Voters of Northern Portage
- Black United Students
- Portage Foundation
- Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio