Sherene Hess, LWV Indiana County
As a young executive director of the county recycling and solid waste authority in 1995, I hungered for opportunities to learn how to be an effective leader. I volunteered to co-chair the annual conference planning committee for a statewide recycling organization. Soon I was busy with facility logistics, publicity, and organizing educational workshops and panelists for the three-day conference. A colleague suggested I contact the League of Women Voters to “moderate” the conference panels and workshops.
I admit that I was mystified by the notion of an unknown individual “regulating” parts of our conference. Nevertheless, I took my colleague’s wise advice and contacted the leadership of the LWV of Indiana County. I was swiftly enlightened as to exactly how their moderating skills could help me achieve my aim to hold the best recycling education conference possible. These were friendly, informed, and competent individuals who were enthusiastic about being part of the conference. Having been a leader in Indiana’s recycling initiatives decades earlier, they took their moderator role seriously at the conference, exemplifying the proficiency of the League and its ability to maximize a discussion. Participants felt like they had been effective and valuable, and I gained kudos for leading the way to a well-attended conference.
I learned more about the League and its work and realized I wanted to put my energies into this organization. Still, it was not a straight line to membership for me: it took several invitations from League members before I finally paid my dues. Their persistence paid off and I quickly engaged, taking on the secretary role in my first year. I was elected president in 2001. During the several years that followed, my family doubled in number and we moved to a new home twice. Additionally I switched jobs a couple of times, including a long stint with the LWVPA’s Water Resources Education Network, a program that educates citizens and municipal officials about the importance of protecting drinking water for all. Through all of the changes in my life, the League was an enduring and faithful presence.
Our league has participated in all of the state studies and some of the national studies. One of our proudest accomplishments was to initiate the conversation about the effects of technological developments in the natural gas development industry. In 2009-10, LWVIC began to examine the socio-economic and environmental concerns and opportunities, and through a statewide study, LWVPA produced seven Study Guidesthoroughly researched and cited. The Guides continue to be the basis of the League’s advocacy efforts for local and state legislation on natural gas development, rules and regulations that protect citizens and the natural resources on which they and their communities depend on for good health and economic development. Through its statewide network, the League continues to be a leader in examining emerging legislation and regulations, and providing testimony supporting laws and regulations to protect those working and living in gas fields and communities dealing with the effects of natural gas exploration and expansion.
I love being part of an organization that is so dedicated to accuracy of information and to being a voice for those who are often unrepresented in public dialogue. I have worked hard for the League but I have also gained so much from my connection to the League, personally and professionally. One of the things I will always remember is when my husband Mark told me some years ago how proud he was of my work with the League. It made me realize how my meaningful my time with the league had been and continues to be.