Susan Carpenter Story Bank


From the Story Bank: Why I Joined the League

Susan Carpenter

It was 1975 when we moved to my hometown, Oak Ridge, TN with 2 toddlers. We knew the schools and community were solid and would be good for our children. After a few months I saw a notice that the League of Women Voters had a program about development that included the developer of our subdivision on the panel. There were some minor problems in the neighborhood so I wanted to attend. I was a bit tentative because in the south ‘The League’ usually conjured up ‘Junior League’ and I wasn’t a member. I think I actually called someone to see if I could attend.

Thus began a lifelong commitment to the League and a wonderful education in citizenship and community organizing. I think I have held just about every office except secretary and treasurer either in Oak Ridge, Montgomery County, MD, or Washington, DC Leagues. I was very fortunate to help with a few National LWV projects from a statewide natural resources education project to being the chair of the ABCNews/LWV project to cover national election returns for several years and an AAAS/LWVUS project that studied girls’ access to education in the sciences. I think I need to take a statement back from above: I stepped down from VP to secretary of the State Board when I was also LWVOak Ridge president. The big local League project that year was a contentious (and ultimately raucous) debate between the Congressional candidates Marilyn Lloyd, incumbent, and challenger Jim Golden. Second to that debate, the most fun meetings were any Candidate Forum that included the county road commissioners–you could almost guarantee a shouting match.

Besides the great memories, the best thing I got from the League was an education in how to get things done. When we moved to a boat in Washington, DC, there was a push to organize those who lived aboard their boats to address coming development along the waterfront. I was in the mix as countless proposals to organize from the men in suits came and went with no success. It wasn’t until I was in a position to implement League-type principles (openness, democracy, Roberts Rules, bylaws, etc.) that we took off and became the Gangplank Slipholders Association (GPSA) the day before the Pentagon, a mile away, was hit by the plane on 9/11/2001. Currently the GPSA is the official negotiating arm of marina slipholders with the new developers of the DC Southwest Waterfront. A GPSA spin-off organization I’m very proud of, also, is the Port of Washington Yacht Club that is now 14 years old. Jimmy Buffet lives!!

This was all about the League. From a personal note, my husband and I (Joe Carpenter, Jr.) celebrated 50 years of marriage this summer and our children, Keri and Tim, are successfully living in CA. Keri and 2 yo grandson Langton (named after our street here in SF) are in San Francisco. Tim and his 2 yo granddaughter are in the LA area. I consider Granny as my new and best-ever title. We still spend a few months every year in DC or traveling but it’s hard to be away from the grandchildren.


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