Sunday, September 11, 2011

Smart Gals Sip

Mary Nell Mathis, Becky Beaver, Karen Sonleitner, Emma Lou Linn and Cecelia Burke (pictured) - what a powerhouse group of women! We convened at Jeffrey’s on a Tuesday night for some fun reminiscing and, sure enough, the magic showed up right on cue.

I met Mary Nell Mathis around 1989 when I was President of the Austin Women’s Political Caucus. She came to a meeting and introduced herself saying that she ran for US Congress out of Lubbock. Any woman with that much spunk simply had to be my friend! Mary Nell graduated from Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, taught mathematics at Texas Tech, and has been a fierce government watchdog as the Chair of Common Cause, nipping at the heels of governors through numerous administrations.  When I asked Mary Nell about her 15 minutes of fame, she said she thought it was probably her 2007 live interview on CNBC. When I invited Becky Beaver to join the group for drinks, I had no idea that she had known Mary Nell even longer then I, so that made our little reunion even sweeter. I’ve known Becky so long that neither of us are sure when or how we met, but we decided it had to have been through the Austin Women’s Political Caucus, probably in the early 80’s. Becky graduated from Tech and then UT Law School, and has since become a preeminent Central Texas Family Law attorney and a well-know community philanthropist, serving on many local boards.  Just Google her and you’ll see what I mean! Karen Sonleitner and I bonded when she was a Television News Reporter for KVUE and I was working as Sr. Aide to County Commissioner Bob Honts. Karen went on to serve as the Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2 for eleven years. Karen said that her 15 minutes of fame was probably in 1995 when she was one of the very few democrats elected to office during a very atypical Austin Republican landslide year! Karen is a smart gal who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and she accomplished so much during her terms as County Commissioner. Emma Lou Linn cracks me up. If I had to be stuck on a deserted island with one person, I could do a lot worse then Emma Lou!  I met Emma when she was elected to the Austin City Council in 1975, along with a historic group of mold-breakers. She has a PhD in Psychology from UT, is currently Professor of Psychology and Forensic Science at St. Edwards University, and serves on the Forensics Board of the Texas Criminal Defense Investigators Alliance. And get this: She’s from Rocksprings! Another small-town gal makes it big. She regaled us with a funny story about being in Europe during the 70’s and being repeatedly mistaken for Barbara Bel Geddes who played the character of the “Grand Dame” Miss Ellie in the hit TV show Dallas. She milked the misidentification and enjoyed celebrity status all over Europe! Cecelia Burke was Travis County Tax Assessor Collector for six years between 1993 and 1999, when she became the Travis County Director of Domestic Relations. She also worked under Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock when he was State Comptroller.  Cecelia recently retired and when I asked her what she was doing now, she said, “I’m working out. I walk. I go to the gym.  And I do Pilates.” So needless to say, she’s is great shape! She told some really funny stories about the Women’s Political Caucus, getting in and out of scrapes! This doesn’t even come close to telling you how important these women have been, and are, to Austin and Texas politics and women’s election to Austin offices. They all significantly influenced my political involvement, and they all “threw their bodies over the barbed wire” for Ann Richards as she approached her election to Texas Governor. A great bunch of smart gals with whom I feel fortunate to be associated.

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