Fran Cole, newly elected president of the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County for 2021-22, steps into her role with a long history of community service and professional experience. Cole says she is busy launching a strong vision for her hometown League that spans voter education, community collaboration and “big fun” with the reprised Constitutional Challenge fundraiser. Recently Cole answered a few questions about her background and goals for the upcoming year.
1. Who is Fran Cole?
“I grew up in the small town called Peru, Ind., where my politically active family lived since the early 1800s. I am currently a partner with the law firm of Diamond Baker Mitchell Cole, LLP, where I practice business law and civil litigation. I am the sixth generational attorney in my family and the only woman, attending the University of Vermont undergrad and the University of Virginia School of Law.”
“I began my law practice in large law firms, first in Cincinnati and then in San Francisco. I ended my big city legal career as a Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel, Investment Management for Charles Schwab & Co. in San Francisco and moved to Grass Valley about 20 years ago to raise my daughters in a small rural community. I recently learned that two of my Indiana ancestors were instrumental in the formation of the National League of Women Voters, which both thrilled me and made me a bit sad.”
“I am inspired by their courage and perseverance, but dismayed that their efforts were not publicly recognized until recently. However, knowing that I am related to these women gives me an extra boost in my League activities. I hope that they would be proud of what I am doing. My family also raised me to serve my community, and I have served on the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission and many boards, including Bear Yuba Land Trust, Nevada County Media Center, Rudiger Foundation, Gold Country Trails Council and Community Beyond Violence.”
“I am also honored to act as legal counsel for a number of local nonprofit organizations. I was the 2020 recipient of the 31st Annual Col. William H. “Bill” Lambert Award, an honor bestowed by the Famous Marching Presidents, an original Nevada County organization that honors the U.S. Constitution.“
2. Can you describe your history with the League?
“I have always admired the League of Women Voters because it is such a strong voice in communities like ours. Like many of us in Nevada County, the League’s candidate forums were my first encounter with the organization. I was impressed by how the League moderators and other League volunteers conducted themselves in such a professional, non-partisan, no-nonsense way in these forums.”
“I joined the League board and took on the role of programs co-chair for our League in 2017. Our educational programs have covered a lot of important topics, including voting rights, defining characteristics of the national political parties, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, combatting racism in our community and sexual harassment in politics. We took these educational programs to Zoom during the pandemic and found that we could greatly expand our educational outreach and audience by using social media platforms.”
3. Why do you feel the League matters in our community?
“When I joined the League board, our country was just starting to become more polarized, and our board had a number of discussions about how we fit into that world. We wondered what role we could play in an increasingly divided political environment. My predecessor, Janice Bedayn, led us through those times of uncertainty and showed us that rather than being outmoded, the nonpartisan League was the ideal organization to educate our community.”
“The League is truly unique because we try to present all viewpoints fairly and without bias. I don’t think our brand has ever been stronger, and we have become an institution in itself. Many in this country have lost faith in our political institutions, and there is a lot of distrust of the media. In our own community we have had trouble finding representatives of different viewpoints that are willing to come together to discuss important issues.”
“Because the League is not affiliated with any particular political party, we truly have no biased agenda, and I think people in our community realize that and respect us. Our mission is strictly to promote democracy, educate voters and protect the right to vote. We are out there in our community talking about really important issues that affect all of us, including climate change, election integrity, diversity and equality and homelessness. Our board and our volunteers are amazing people who share a desire to get past the issues that divide us and find common ground. The women who formed this organization never gave up, and this strength endures into today’s League.”
4. What are the plans for 2021-2022?
“Our members and our community have told us they want us to focus our efforts on local issues, and we plan to do just that. Since it’s a non-election year (other than the September gubernatorial recall election), we will enhance our collaborations with other community groups and look at new ways and venues to educate our community about election integrity and other important issues. In addition to our newsletter, we will provide a combination of in-person and recorded media presentations to educate the community in a non-partisan way.”
“And, I am officially announcing that on October 22, 2021, the League will hold the second Constitutional Challenge fundraiser. Our inaugural Constitutional Challenge in 2019 was tremendous fun and a huge success. Community teams will be quizzed on subjects involving the Constitution, politics and American history in a lively event that will feature the Famous Marching Presidents. The League is a serious, principled organization, but we have a whimsical and fun side, too. More information will be forthcoming, but please save the date. See you there!”