ATTLEBORO — The city councilor who made history in 2017 by putting women in the majority of the 11-member body for the first time in the city’s history, now aims to make the city charter gender neutral.
Laura Dolan, who represents Ward 5, submitted a proposal this week which, if approved by colleagues, asks the state Legislature to change the word “councilman” to “councilor”and “committeeman” to “committee member” wherever the words appear in the city’s ruling document.
Male pronouns, for example, would be changed from “him” to “him/her” as necessary.
Dolan became the sixth woman on the council in November of 2017 when she took the place of former Ward 5 councilor Jeremy Denlea, who resigned when he moved to New Hampshire.
She took the oath of office shortly after her election because the Ward 5 seat was vacant and became the sixth woman on the panel with five men.
The female majority didn’t last long however, because at-large councilor, Julie Hall resigned in September of 2018 to run for state representative.
She was then replaced by Ty Waterman, who won election in November.
Dolan asked the council to petition the Legislature to make the changes with a special act. That method does not require the election of a charter commission or approval from voters.
She said the proposed amendments do not change the substance of the charter or the way the city is governed.
They do however reflect the fact that more women are taking an active role in governing the city.
“This is something that is minor,” she said referring to the language changes. “We’re giving the same dignity to women as men have always received.”
She wants to use the same method to change the charter which the mayor wants to use to impose term limits on the office of mayor.
However, Mayor Paul Heroux has run into opposition, with some arguing that enacting term limits is a “significant” change to the charter and should be taken up by a charter commission and then voted on by the electorate.
Dolan’s proposal was referred to the ordinance committee headed up by Diana Holmes for discussion.