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Women leaders speak up

The Feminist Action Collective — with the motto organize, educate, agitate and resist — formed Nov. 9, 2016, in Duluth in reaction to the election of President Donald Trump.

The activist group is dedicated to demanding equality for all members of society and promoting women in leadership.

"We've been really working hard to get women elected to office," said Jen Maki, a member of the collective who moderated a forum designed to give the public an opportunity to learn more about the women running for office in Superior and Northern Wisconsin.

Women running for offices from the City Council to Congress had the chance to address nearly two dozen people Wednesday night at Vintage Italian Pizza in Superior.

Unfortunately, 9th District Council candidate, Jessica Peterson, was unable to attend tonight, Maki said.

The women who did — Amanda Perrin, write-in candidate in the 3rd District, and Martina Tendrup in the 6th District council races, and Margaret Engebretson, running for the 7th Congressional District, answered questions about how people could support their campaigns and their goals for the offices they would hold if elected.

Tendrup, a lifelong Superior resident who twice graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said she would represent Superior every day to ensure that every voice is heard. As an advocate at the Center for Sexual and Domestic Abuse, she said she already represents the voices of those who aren't heard. And she's familiar with the city's affordable housing issues and the challenges public transportation in the city presents.

"I think it's very important that every voice is heard here in Superior and I'm not always seeing that our underrepresented people are being heard," Tendrup said.

Perrin, a 10-month Superior resident — now about two years in the Twin Ports — who works in housing and residence life at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said her goal is to solve problems to make the community equally accessible to everyone.

"For me, it's been really important to create policies to help dismantle some of the supremacy that's woven within our policies — things that keep people out of systems and out of access — as opposed to systems that help create access," Perrin said. She said her goal is to uplift and make the community accessible to all.

Engebretson, a retired veteran, former union worker for Burlington Northern, UWS graduate and lawyer who settled in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, in 2010, said she was so shocked by the outcome of the presidential election that she did some research and decided to get involved with the Democratic Party in Polk County. She said in her own community she's seen the decline that has lead to anger and hopelessness as the nation's Congress was ground into partisan deadlock following the 2010 election.

"I really started to evaluate what my role was prior to the election ... and I realized I could have been doing a lot more than voting." She said she evaluated her life again and decided the best way she could serve her country again is to challenge Sean Duffy, the congressman elected to Wisconsin's 7th District in 2010.

Challenging Duffy drew applause from the audience.

"We get to solve problems in a better, more functional way," Perrin said when asked what women have to offer when serving in an elected office. She said it's about bringing the rich diversity of the community to the table to get to the truths and stories of many to develop policies that work for everyone.

"I hope with more women in office we can start dismantling segregation, separation," Perrin said.

Engebretson said "so much" would change if more women were elected to office. After working in male-dominated fields all of her life — she was among seven women in a railroad diesel shop where 300 men worked — she saw those women before her as role models who plowed the way for others.

"The way I always thought about the chain of command was I always strived to make my boss look good and you always bring someone with you," Engebretson said. "You need to do that in politics."

Tendrup said having more women in government would better reflect the community and create the opportunity to reach out to others.

"If we have to start with more women in leadership, that's going to open the door to everyone else," Tendrup said.

Councilor Jenny Van Sickle, who was first elected to office last year, said the collective's forum last year was the first place where she felt like she could "take the armor off."

"As a member of the council now, I cannot stress enough how critical these races are and how imperative turnout is," Van Sickle said. "There is something really alive in Superior right now, and there's a vibrancy you can feel ... and we have to keep that going."