The League has made me the person I am today. No other organization has given me such amazing opportunities to learn, network with fascinating leaders in their fields, and get involved in my community. I have been involved with all sorts of organizations and none give me more satisfaction than being a League member. When I moved to San Francisco, dozens of issues were being settled at the ballot box and each had supporters and opponents with strident, contradictory campaign materials. I struggled to find unbiased analysis and, for the first time in my life, I considered not voting because I felt so unprepared. I was horrified: I was in one of the most famously politically active cities in the country, and yet I couldn’t find basic voter information?
Then I found the San Francisco League, the only consistent source of straightforward election information I could trust. I started hosting parties before each election: we order pizza and discuss our ballots using Smart Voter, the Easy Voter Guide, and other League resources. This inspired me to train to present the ballot measures to community groups and on television, give testimony at hearings, and organize issue forums. I couldn’t have imagined I’d have so much fun educating myself about the issues, improving my research and presentation skills, and strengthening democracy.
I’m also proud that I can share such rewarding opportunities with colleagues, new members, and even international visitors from the State Department, United Nations and student exchange programs. We need everyone to participate in civic life in order to be a strong, safe, fair and vibrant place to live. Because the League is a model grassroots organization, my hands-on work is part of a powerful movement dedicated to tangible civic improvement at the local, state, national and even international levels.
A longtime member and past president of the Palo Alto League of Women Voters, Sandy Eakins helped organize Smart Voter, an initiative that provides unbiased election information for California voters. She co-founded New Voices for Youth, a LWV program designed to encourage civic engagement with high school students through the media arts.
Sandy was born November 10, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Ray and Rebecca (Smith) Brown, and was raised in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from Wellesley College, class of 1959, with a degree in Art History and remained an active and devoted alumna. She held master’s degrees from Boston University and Santa Clara University.
She married her husband, Gilbert Eakins, in 1959 and co-founded EOS (Eakins Open Systems), a computer integration business in 1972.
Sandy was active in civic affairs for many years beginning with founding the Palo Verde neighborhood association and volunteering with the PTA for her children’s schools. Later, she served on the Palo Alto City Council from 1997-2002, including a term as mayor. She also served on the boards of the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, Planning Commission and the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority. She shared her love of the arts through her service on the Palo Alto Public Art Commission and the board of the Palo Alto Art Center.
Sandy created a more beautiful world as an art collector, avid photographer, master gardener and world traveler. She enjoyed gifting her children and grandchildren with works of art and mementoes of her travels.
You can read more about her on her memorial site.
Heather Sterner, a member of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, says "I got out of League what I put into it," and that there was a direct correlation between the hours I spent on projects and the friendships formed with the people I worked with.
As I look back on my years with the League of Women Voters I realize that there was a direct correlation between the hours I spent on projects and the friendships formed with the people I worked with. I got out of League what I put into it.
I first joined League in San Mateo County where I served on the board and worked on studies and action. In 1987 my husband and I moved from Burlingame to San Francisco and one of the first things I did was join the San Francisco League.
I was on the board when Charlene Smith was president, she of the purple hair which overnight changed people’s image of the League of Women Voters.
It was Susan Sutherland who was president when we came up with the idea of a fundraising luncheon, named by Ann Walsh as Women Who Could be President. Out of the many hours spent on the luncheon from 1992 until 1999, fast friendships were formed.
I was honored to represent the League on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force for four-plus years, a position taken over by Kristin Chiu and now Allison Washburn. Being “inside City Hall” was an eye-opening experience I recommend to all.
The election in Los Angeles contained many ballot measures which were very confusing to me, especially after watching the ads on television. I came across a brochure at my local library called, "Easy Voter Guide." After reading through it I was so grateful to have clear and understandable facts about each side, truly unbiased information about each proposition. I immediately sent in my check to LWV to support their wonderful work and I was able to make informed decisions with my vote.
It was decadence – the special brownies sold by the LWV Beach Cities at a fair in Manhattan Beach (California) – that first grabbed my attention. But it was enough to make me start noticing more significant ways the League impacts our communities. In my work as an engineering geologist for a state agency that regulates water quality, I was impressed by the questions asked by smart League members in San Gabriel Valley communities in the early 1990s as they carefully and insightfully studied the risks of reclaiming treated wastewaters and the potential this local resource has for stabilizing water supplies in southern California. And soon after joining the League in the mid-1990s, I was excited to be part of the League’s partnership with Common Cause – as one of thousands of volunteers statewide, we helped collect enough signatures to qualify an initiative for campaign finance reform (and later took action to get the ballot measure passed)!
Since then, there have been many candidate forums and other League projects – not only do they offer opportunity for positive community impact, they also offer meaningful opportunities for developing my professional and communication skills. Most recently, as a director serving on the board for the LWV California, I am challenged and excited to work with my League colleagues to help adapt strategies to position our organization to increase its impact in state and local government.
The League continues to satisfy my passion for chocolate. My good friend, Irma Cohen (whom I met through the LWV Beach Cities), throws chocolate parties at which friends and neighbors are enticed to join the League. And I indulge in chocolate over many enjoyable meals or cups of tea with fellow League members at national, state, county, and local level - and look forward to many more.
Meet Eileen Burke-Trent, chosen for a two-year term as one of the national League’s 18 Ruth Shur Fellows this past January. Coming from southern Butte County, an area with a diverse population, Eileen is looking forward to reaching out to people with Hispanic or Latino backgrounds in California. The League, where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement — and fun!
What the League of Women Voters means to me? The League means that I am going to get the correct information that I need to vote intelligently. I know that a study has been done and that I am being given the correct information on the propositions. I know that candidates are never endorsed but that the League, in their effort to make information available to all voters, holds candidate forums. I also know that the League of Women Voters was started by women who campaigned to obtain the right to vote for women in the United States. They wanted women to use their new right to vote well. The League began in 1920 by providing women with information they would need to make intelligent decisions in the polling booth - and they are still providing that information today.
I joined the League of Women Voters 25 years ago as a household member, but other than occasional things with our local League’s voter service , I didn’t become an active member until my retirement.
I have a strong financial and management background, and over time I found that my skill set is really needed because it is rare in small non-profit organizations. I became more integrated in the financial governance of organisations I had always supported, including our local LWV Glendale Burbank. I quickly found other very interesting roles within our organisation, including the website and voter service. Those I work with in our League are intelligent, passionate, dynamic and dedicated, and it was great to discuss exciting things that are important to our community and country.
Working on the State League Budget Committee, I got to know more League members across the State. One of my most enjoyable experiences has been helping local Leagues comply with their government reporting requirements. This might sound like a dull task, but I got to talk to and work with leaders in almost 50 local Leagues, a delightful experience. It was great discussing issues they were working on and problems they were facing, sharing plans and ideas. It reinforced why I value my involvement in the League so much; discussions with others who appreciate non-partisanship, integrity and empowering fellow citizens.
I am often asked if it bothers me, being involved in an organisation named the League of Women Voters. Honestly, I never even think about it. I am part of what is becoming increasingly valuable to our society--informing and educating voters in a civilized environment, something I’m incredibly proud of. I want to make the organisation more efficient for the future, planning better and accomplishing more.
California Forward named Raquel Beltran, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, a “Forward Thinker”- one of California’s everyday leaders who saw a need in her community and is working to fill it. Watch Raquel's video interview.
"We want people to be engaged,” says Beltran. “We don’t want them to be so disgruntled that they walk away from participating in democracy. Engagement is pivotal to having a successful democracy in our country.”
It is the League’s role as a vigorous champion of democracy and good government that strongly resonates with me. I think we have a duty to not only hold our institutions to high standards but to speak up about them. The work we do in voter service and voter education is evidence of how vital the League is.
My League hosted a delegation of Russian government officials from the Republic of Kalmykia. We introduced them to various local and regional government officials so they could see our system of accountable government, the rule of law and civic participation at work.
The accessibility of our community leaders and our political structures was a marked difference to their own institutions. The League is a showcase for our society’s emphasis on civic engagement and our visitors were extremely impressed with the League’s role in encouraging informed and active participation in government, as well as our networks and relationships within government, academia, and the nonprofit world."
In her free time, Lianne and her husband are establishing an organic olive orchard in Lake County where she is a member of the local California Women for Agriculture chapter. Read more about Lianne and post a message to her on Facebook.