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KAREN GOODMAN: Women I Saw as Influential for Manistee County

It is already March, the time in our Michigan season that brings snow, rain, warmth, and mud. By this description, I believe I have described this past winter. March is a time that we start to consider moving from our winter hibernation (if you are not a winter sports person), to enjoying more time outside and being able to enjoy the longer, brighter evenings. 

Another item of importance in March is Women’s History Month. You may ask why is this important. It is a time to celebrate the progress made for/by women and remember the important influences women have within our society. Women of influence are all around us, and sometimes we just do not recognize their role in shaping our world. As a young woman, moving back to my community, it was at that time I became aware of the influence of the strong women taking leadership roles in our community, but I did not genuinely appreciate their trailblazing, advocacy, and passion for change until I was older. 

The first woman of influence for me was my mother who I saw as a trailblazer when I think back on my childhood. I was growing up in an age when jobs for women were a bit limited, but not for my mother, she did not let this hold her back. She took on every task and never allowed gender to limit what she did. When I talked with her years later about what I saw as her trailblazer role, she was not even aware of the impression she was making on me as a young girl. My mother could hardly say no to anyone in need, and she was always willing to give a helping hand. Her life was not easy, and through every terrible bump in the road, she got through it and succeeded. She would tell me that when I find something wrong when facing any challenges, do not just complain, face the issue head-on, find solutions, and get involved. Her influence, and the influence of other women in our community while I was growing up helped me to decide to get involved!

Over the years Manistee County has had women who were also trailblazers, significantly impacted our community, and influenced my becoming involved in our community, and eventually a county commissioner. The first woman I remember is Betty Noteware, a woman who could move mountains. Betty was instrumental in the development of a mental health system for our community. She worked with others to establish the first mental health agency and board in 1972. Betty remained committed to mental health for decades. She was enthusiastic about the importance of having services here for citizens needing assistance. To this day Centra Wellness has an award “The Betty Noteware Award” presented to staff who are exemplary in their job. I was able to meet Betty when she was on the mental health board, and when she was on the board of the Manistee County Medical Care Facility. Betty was small in stature and soft-spoken, but she had a roar. She was a fierce advocate for our community. 

Another woman I had met and appreciated was Sheri Wild, former County Commissioner and Chair of the County Commission for a time. As I got to know Sheri, she certainly was not about keeping the status quo, she was always looking to improve our County. She spent time with me, providing support and information while encouraging me to run for office. When discussing public office, I could recall two pictures that resonated and remained with me. One was of Sheri as the Chair of the County Commissioners and the other was Colleen Kelly. I never met Mayor Kelly, but I remember it as a poignant moment seeing her chairing our city council as Mayor of Manistee, and all these years later we have had two more women leaders representing our city as Mayor. 

Today I hope that young women see articles and think about the number of women in in our community in leadership roles. We have women leaders in many areas, including our county administrator, chamber president & CEO, director of the tourism authority, vice president and directors in healthcare, detectives in law enforcement, principles in our school systems, and many more from the classrooms to the women working at home, their leadership and examples will influence the younger generation of women and they will not think twice or find it unique to see a woman in leadership roles. Thank you to all the strong women who promote strength and leadership to our younger generations daily. 

Karen Goodman, LMSW, is the Chief Operating Officer for Centra Wellness Network, County Commissioner for the 6th District (West side City of Manistee), Commissioner on the City of Manistee Housing Commission, and Vice Chair of the Manistee Downtown Development Authority.