She lost city council job to man after member asked about 'raising a family,' time management

Ely City Council candidate Michelle Beecher pictured in an undated courtesy photo
Ely City Council candidate Michelle Beecher pictured in an undated courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. – The Ely City Council will have to hold its next meeting in a convention center after a pair of male members suggested a female council candidate wouldn't have time to fill a vacant seat on the public body while raising a family.

They ultimately voted for a man, Ed Spear, to fill the seat instead, as first reported last week by the Ely Times.

Since then, an ongoing firestorm has raged on social media, where dozens of residents of the small, eastern Nevada community have come to the defense of two-time council hopeful Michelle Beecher.

Beecher's story marks a stark contrast with most of the recent headlines grabbed by female politicians in Nevada, where voters have been praised for electing a female-dominated congressional delegation and the nation's first female-majority state Legislature.

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Beecher, an economic development official who narrowly lost a 2018 bid for a council seat, was one of two nominees for an open council seat filled during the panel’s Sept. 18 meeting.

But she lost the spot to a male candidate after Councilmen Kurt Carson and Jim Alworth questioned her commitment to the job.

“I think you would be a good fit up here on the council, but you probably have one of the toughest jobs in this room, that of raising a family,” Carson said, according to the Ely Times. “So I am wondering, no disrespect, do you have the time to really commit to this?”

Alworth reportedly seconded Carson’s concerns, prompting a response from Beecher.

“You want something done, you ask someone who is busy,” Beecher said, according to the newspaper. “I know how to prioritize ... I make sure I get my kids to where they need to be and I make sure my job gets done well.”

Newly appointed Ely City Councilman Ed Spear pictured in an undated courtesy photo
Newly appointed Ely City Councilman Ed Spear pictured in an undated courtesy photo

Spear, the male candidate who won the job over Beecher, was later quoted as saying he would miss the next two City Council meetings – a remark that poured gasoline on the already fiery criticisms directed at Carson and Alworth.

So far, Spear's appointment over Beecher has prompted more than 160 comments from readers on the Ely Times’ Facebook page.

“Wait, they questioned (Beecher’s) ability to balance family and work, yet he's already missing his first two council meetings?” asked Karen Scott, one of those who joined the outcry. “I bet she would have been there!”

Ely resident Lacey Balch soon piled on.

“Thanks for diminishing a woman’s capabilities in public,” she wrote. “Pure shame to call out a mother’s ability to care for her family and give back to her community as well.”

Beecher will have a second crack at a City Council spot Thursday, when city leaders expect to fill yet another vacancy created by a member who resigned last week.

In a Monday statement, the city acknowledged the “strong response” to the council’s previous appointment and said it’s upcoming meeting would be held at a convention center “in order to accommodate the anticipated attendance."

Carson and Alworth did not immediately return requests for comment from a Reno Gazette Journal reporter. Spear could not be reached.

Beecher, the only candidate seeking the seat to be filled Thursday, told the Journal she was deeply affected by the community’s response to last week’s appointment snub.

“It has been overwhelming, to say the least,” she said. “I’m impressed to live in a community that understands the value of a working parent. That’s been really cool to see.”

Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson, who nominated Beecher for a council seat, cast the lone vote in favor of her appointment at last week’s meeting. He told his colleagues the position “should be open to all the good people in our community, whether they have families or anything else,” according to the Ely Times.

This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Ely councilmen ask whether female candidate could work and raise family