Most of all, Kathleen Weisenberg wants people to exercise their right to vote at the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6. All the better if they’re “smart” – meaning educated and informed.
The long-time member of the League of Women Voters, who’s been active at the local, state and national levels, is currently Director of SmartVoter.org, a League-sponsored website that provides unbiased descriptions of the candidates and ballot propositions.
An Atherton resident since 1968, Kathleen worked as a nurse for a number of years, including 15 months in Europe. “I really wanted to explore and travel after graduating [from the University of Washington],” she said. “I attribute that to my Scandinavian roots — we were travelers.”
She continued her career as head of nursing at Mt. Zion Hospital’s ICU unit, before marrying a physician and moving from San Francisco to the Peninsula where they raised two daughters.
“My first love was nursing, but I was always interested in government,” she said. “I took at class at CSM and met a group of older women who were naturalized citizens. One of them encouraged me to come to a local League meeting. That was in 1969, and I’ve been involved ever since.”
Kathleen explained that the League was born out of the women’s suffrage movement: “When we had the right to vote, then we needed to be educated. The League believes that citizens should be informed, engaged in the electoral process, and have their voices heard.”
For years the League, whose members now include men as well as women, depended on the printed voter’s guide to inform the electorate. The information moved to electronic form when the organization Smart Citizen helped the League launch SmartVoter in 1996.
“It levels the playing field as we make posting information free to the candidates,” said Kathleen. “The first year we got 10,000 hits. Now, 92% of Californians are able to get information about local, state, and national candidates and ballot measures. It’s designed to give people as much information as they want. The amazing thing about SmartVoter is, like the League, it’s a grassroots organization.”
While Kathleen characterizes SmartVoter as “taking up most of my life,” she also wants to encourage local residents to join the South San Mateo chapter of the League which covers the cities of Atherton, Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley, East Palo Alto and Redwood City. “In my view, it’s not just the leadership skills and knowledge you gain from participation in League activities,” she said. “It’s an important thing to do for your children and grandchildren.”
Photo by Irene Searles