Note: This is a news release from the League of Women Voters. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice.
ITHACA — Join The History Center for a Panel Discussion “Women’s Suffrage and Political Office: A Seat at the Table” with local elected women officials. Moderated by Leslie Danks Burke, the panel will include Martha Robertson, Pamela Bleiwas, Deb Mohlenhoff, Liz Thomas, and Deborah Cipolla-Dennis who will cover such questions as: Are you conscious of being a role model for young women? What message do you have for young women about voting, being an involved citizen and politics? Is there a key challenge associated with being a woman who is an elected official? As an elected official who is a woman what do you see as a key opportunity? The event is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Leslie Danks Burke is a lawyer, a weekly political commentator for the regional NBC affiliate in New York’s Southern Tier and Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, and the Founder and President of the nonpartisan Trailblazers PAC, which educates and invests in candidates for local office who take action for clean government. As a political advocate for a decade and a half in our region, Leslie has chaired the regional Planned Parenthood advocacy arm, served on the statewide Planned Parenthood board, was Founding President of the 14-county Democratic Women of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, served four years as chair of the Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee, has volunteered on scores of political campaigns from the local to the state and national, and was a candidate for New York State Senate herself in 2016.
Martha Robertson has been on the Legislature since 2002 and in 2016 she chairs the Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee. She served as Chair of the Legislature and Chair of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency from 2010 – 2013. Martha is Chair of the Program Oversight Committee of the Community Housing Development Fund, a partnership among Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University, to respond to the affordable housing needs of the county’s residents.
Pamela Bleiwas is an attorney and is active in local politics. In 2015 she was elected to a four-year term on the Ithaca Town Board. She served as Chair of the Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee from 2013 – 2016, and has managed or advised several political campaigns. Pam’s other community activities include the Board of Directors of the Kitchen Theatre Company and the Women’s Fund Advisory Committee of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. She is a past president of the Tompkins County SPCA and Sisterhood of Temple Beth El. Pam lives on West Hill with her husband, Jeff Silber, and their two rescue shih tzu, Ruby and Trixie.
Deb Mohlenhoff has lived in the City of Ithaca since her Senior year at Ithaca College in 1992 and has spent the last 20 in the 5th Ward. She is currently employed by Tompkins Cortland Community College as the Director of Student Activities and the Student Center. She manages the facility, provides leadership training to students, advises the Student Government Association, coordinates student clubs, allocates the college’s Student Activity Fee, and provides co-curricular programming for commuter and resident students. Deb has served on the boards of several local nonprofits as well as provides Strategic Planning services for local organizations.
Elizabeth Thomas, after growing up in the Ithaca area, was a crop consultant for fruit growers along Lake Ontario for many years–a field primarily employing men. In the 1990’s, she moved back to the Ithaca area, continuing her work to reduce the use of pesticides, working then for Cornell Cooperative Extension. This work took her regularly to Washington, D.C. where she became more familiar with the importance of good governmental policies. Since 2008, she has been an elected official at the most local level on the Town Board in Ulysses, serving 5 of the nearly 10 years as the Town Supervisor.
Deborah Cipolla-Dennis is currently serving as a council member in the Town of Dryden. I am the program manager for Bioacoustics Research Program at The Cornell Lab, responsible for all the administrative and operational activities. Before coming to the Lab, she was the economic development coordinator at a community action agency in Chenango County, New York, helping local residents start small businesses. Deborah also worked for 15 years in software engineering for government and military applications.