VANCOUVER — Having worked so hard over the past few months to resurrect a group that was down to just a handful of members in October of 2016, the Clark County Republican Women’s organization was not going to let a little snow and ice get in the way of their gala event.
“The show will go on!” the group announced on Wed., Jan. 11, after an unexpected winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the Vancouver/Portland metro area.
And go on it did. More than 80 people, including Washington State Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison, the group’s keynote speaker, turned out on Thursday night, Jan. 12, to Vancouver’s Club Green Meadows to celebrate a renewed Clark County Republican Women and install the group’s new officers.
Watch video of the installation of the new officers for the Clark County Republican Women’s group, which held their gala event on Thu., Jan. 12 in Vancouver. Video by Andi Schwartz
“Our keynote speaker came down from the Seattle area and said she had no problem on the freeway, but was shocked to see how much snow Southwest Washington had compared to what they had up north,” Connie Jo Freeman, the new president of the Clark County Republican Women (CCRW)’s group said on Fri., Jan. 13, the morning after the gala event. “We had 82 people brave the ice to get here last night.”
Freeman, a former Washougal City Councilmember, replaces CCRW’s longtime president, Micheline Doan, who passed away in December of 2016.
Along with Freeman, the group installed several new officers at the Thu., Jan. 12 event, including Stacie Jesser as first vice president, State Representative Liz Pike as second vice president, Anna Miller as secretary and Suzanne Gerhardt as treasurer.
Freeman says the local Republican women’s group has worked hard over the past few months to build itself up again, after membership sank to just a handful of women.
“This is a club that has been around for years, but the president was ill and membership had dwindled,” Freeman said. “They were actually considering closing the club.”
Then, in the fall of 2016, CCRW leaders Miller and Pike put a call out: Did members want to close the club or work to renew interest?
“That’s how I got invited to join,” Freeman said. “We had a reorganization meeting in October to see if women would respond and 25 women showed up. So we went from having just a few members, and three officers, to having 25 show up in October, then we held our elections, and now it’s January and there are 82 people showing up in the middle of a blizzard … We’re excited.”
As the group’s new president, Freeman said she hopes to focus on education and outreach to the community.
“One of my biggest passions is political education,” Freeman said. “Our American citizens, they want to do what’s good for the nation, but a lot of times we don’t get education about who are candidates are or what they’re doing … many Americans don’t understand the U.S. Constitution and haven’t read it in the last 30 years … so I hope to be a part of (CCRW’s) education wing and help promote an informed electorate.”
Freeman, 65, whose background includes teaching at a private school in southern California before moving to Washougal in 2005, serving from 2011 to 2015 on the Washougal City Council, going on Christian mission trips to orphanages and villages in countries like India, Nicaragua and China, working on newly elected Republican state legislator Vicki Kraft’s 2016 campaign, and driving special education school buses for the Camas School District, describes herself as someone who loves being around other people and says she’s looking forward to helping with some of the outreach CCRW will do locally and regionally over the next few years.
“People need to be stirred up,” Freeman said. “We need to continue to work after this great election when we’ve had a lot of territory gained for Republicans. We can’t just sit on our hands when that happens. I believe that grassroots is the key, and if you’re not educating people on a grassroots level, then people can get apathetic … So, that’s really what our mission is — to reach out to the people in our circles of influence and to help educate them, talk about the Republican Party and promote good government in Clark County.”