Linda Tyer and Catherine VanBramer
LIPPI 2012 - 2013 Graduates
LIPPI Spotlights 2013 Graduates:
Linda Tyer (left) and Catherine VanBramer
By Julie Kumble, Director of Grants and Strategic Initiatives
Sometimes leaders forge a path largely on their own but usually they tap the support of others to propel themselves forward. Women are especially good at reaching out to friends and family, mentors and role models, and people with similar ideas and those who represent other opinions, to hone their skills and build collaborative leadership. Collaboration comes easy to us. It is one of our strengths.
Two women in Pittsfield embody this approach to leadership. Linda Tyer, City Clerk, and Catherine VanBramer, Senior Clerk, applied to LIPPI together. The duo work together and each day reinforce each other's commitment to improving their city. Almost twice the age as Catherine, Linda gains as much from her protégé as she receives. Catherine has a passion for civic involvement and sharing her knowledge that started at an age when most people are focused on themselves. Their decision to apply to LIPPI together is emblematic of their team approach to getting things done.
Linda, who proudly claims to be an introvert, has been a formidable leader for many years. Perhaps introverted but certainly not shy, Linda has long practiced the power of collaborative leadership. About a decade ago, Pittsfield had no women at all on the city council. She and several other women formed a group called WHEN, originally standing for We've Had Enough Nonsense but later changed to the more politically expedient Women Helping Empower Neighborhoods. The group encouraged other women to run for office, and members helped each other campaign, watched each others' kids and brought meals to one another's homes. Within a year, three women were elected to the city council! Another early WHEN member was MA Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, elected to this post in 2012, and who continues to pay it forward as LIPPI Advisory Board member and in countless other ways. Linda won her re-election for city clerk this past November. She ran uncontested.
Catherine is methodically building her leadership skills through her role at City Hall as well as by choosing to surround herself with supportive and inspiring people. As one of the younger LIPPI participants in the 2013 cohort, she quickly established herself as committed, focused and informed. When she was chosen to participate in the MA Citizen's Legislative Seminar last spring, one of the first things she did was to pass along the opportunity. She enthusiastically encouraged other LIPPI participants to apply. Three did just that and went through this excellent training themselves this October.
Back in Pittsfield, Linda and Catherine launched a new project this past fall called Be a Voter. Discouraged by low voter turnout during the "off years" when no mayoral, senatorial or presidential seats are open and voters aren’t galvanized by low profile races, they decided to do something. "Voter registration isn't the problem," says Linda citing the 28,118 registered voters in a city with 44,767 inhabitants. "Turnout is the problem." With no mayor running this year, the November elections in the city garnered a dismal 25%. This certainly affected two other LIPPI's who ran for office. 2012 LIPPI graduate Donna Todd Rivers was a candidate for city council and despite running an excellent campaign, lost by just 16 votes. 2013 LIPPI participant Pam Farron won her race for school committee.
The Be a Voter initiative may very well make a difference next year. With almost 100 citizens having signed pledge cards to be a voter just this fall, a Facebook page that profiles Be a Voter signatories, stickers, and public speaking engagements by Linda and Catherine, Be a Voter is an effort that can truly make a difference.
Linda Tyer and Catherine VanBramer are strong leaders in their own right, but together they pull each other forward, improve their community, and exemplify that leadership grows when shared. Joined by other LIPPI sisters in Berkshire County, we can only begin to imagine how women will be leading the way locally and beyond.
As MA Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier likes to say, "There is a special place in heaven for women who help other women move forward." Linda and Catherine are making a special place in Pittsfield together.