Tennessee ranks 43rd among the 50 states in gender parity for elected officials, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
Only five of the 30 elected officials in Hamilton County government and only two of the 10 elected Chattanooga city officials are women. Although five of Tennessee's 23 biggest cities now have female mayors, Chattanooga has never had a woman as mayor. In the Tennessee General Assembly, only 17 percent of the legislators are women.
April Luv Goebler wants to change that with a new political action committee she began this year with her next door neighbor, Dr. Kristie Wilde, the dean of Social Work at Southern Adventist University. Although the pair are no politicians themselves, Goebler and Wilde formed the Empower Women PAC to help equip women with the tools they need to overcome their challenges to political office through recruitment, training and campaign support.
The nonpartisan political action committee is trying to raise at least $15,000 for 2018 when Hamilton County voters will elect most county officials and municipal elections in eight Hamilton County cities. The group also has organized high school forums and college scholarship programs to encourage female students to learn more about running for political office.
"It's important that women who comprise more than 51 percent of the population gain more of a voice in local government so we are committed to helping encourage women to run and aiding those who do to get elected," Goebler says. "We must do better."
A native of Clinch Valley, Tenn., Goebler earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Georgia and her law degree at New York Law School before practicing law for over four years in Atlanta. In 2012, Goebler moved to Chattanooga with her husband, Nick, to open the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Brainerd.
The 37-year-old Goeblerhas opted to be a stay-at-home mother with her two daughters for the past four years, but she is eager to help other women to take on new jobs in government. Her passion for getting more gender equity in goverment leadership was spurred by the recent presidential election when her youngest daughter was born on the day Hillary Clinton entered the race as the first female major party nominee for president and what Goebler saw as troubling misogynistic language by some in the subsequent campaign. Although Goebler says she favors the Democratic Party which has the biggest share of women in Congress, she insists the Empower Women PAC is non-partisan and will work to elect women to office regardless of ideology.
"Our focus is on running and winning with women candidates, regardless of party," she says. "We're in this for the long haul."