(Pictured here is Karen Oelschlaeger, the new president of the League of Women Voters of Asheville and Buncombe County)
The League of Women Voters of Asheville and Buncombe County held its annual meeting and luncheon on Saturday, May 12 at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville. The keynote speaker was Leanne Winner, an Asheville native who is now chief lobbyist for the NC School Boards Association (NCSBA). She discussed and analyzed changes in public school funding during the past five years, trends in charter and virtual schooling, and specific legislation that will impact education in North Carolina for years to come. Before joining NCSBA, she was an attorney with Everett, Gaskins, Hancock and Stevens, where she helped guide the $1.8 million school-bond legislation through the General Assembly.
During the League’s business meeting, Karen Oelschlaeger, 27, was unanimously chosen as the new president of the local League, making her one of the youngest League presidents in the history of the organization, and possibly the youngest in the United States. “I am so honored to be able to lead the League of Women Voters in such an exciting year,” said Oelschlaeger. “We’ve already started the year off with a bang by being nominated for a national ‘Power of the Vote’ award, highlighting our efforts to use new media to engage and inform younger voters.”
Oelschlaeger became the local League’s new-media specialist a year ago and has moved its communications into the digital age with a new website, Facebook page, and Twitter presence. Two state Leagues (Florida and Michigan), one regional (League of the Calumet Area, Indiana), and the local Asheville-Buncombe League have been named finalists for the High Impact Online Engagement award, which will be presented at the national League convention in Washington in June. (Voting is open to the public at www.lwv.org/news/2012/04/vote-your-favorite-online-engagement-project.)
The local League branch was founded in 1947. Its mission is to encourage citizen participation in the electoral process and in federal, state, and local government; to influence public policy through education and advocacy; and to secure public policies that promote member-based League positions. The League is nonpartisan and welcomes both men and women of voting age to membership.
Asked about her vision for the Asheville-Buncombe League, Oelschlaeger said, “While our tried-and-true forums and voter registration drives will continue to be a keystone of our voter education efforts, the League can be so much more! This year, we will strive to embody our motto, ‘Citizenship in Action,’ in new and innovative ways. As President, I look forward to integrating the wisdom cultivated throughout the League’s rich 92-year history with the most recent technological developments in order to facilitate informed, active participation in local government.”
Other officers elected for 2012-13 were Pat Deck as Vice President, Nelda Holder as Secretary, and Davyne Dial as Treasurer. Herb Johnson, A. D. Reed, and Jim Ritzen were elected to the Board, and Peg Heilig (chair), Judith Hoy, and Barb Panarites to the Nominating Committee.