A Michigan Program Aiming to Get More Women in Local Government Just Graduated Its Fifth Class

By Isaac Constans

April 21, 2023

The Top Line

  • In Michigan, 80% of executive positions in Michigan’s local governments are held by men.
  • The Michigan Municipal League is trying to close that gap. The league offers free development programs for Michigan women who work in, or want to work in, local administrative and government offices.
  • Since their programs began in 2018, the number of women in those roles has risen, from 16% to 20%.
  • Their 2022 class just graduated—23 women from across both the UP and the Lower Peninsula are now on the path to becoming stronger local government managers.

MICHIGAN—Women hold more top leadership roles than ever in Michigan government, but many of our local communities still lack significant female representation. Today, just one out of every five executive positions in Michigan’s local governments is held by women. 

But the needle is moving in the right direction, according to the Michigan Municipal League, an association that represents more than 500 cities, towns, and villages in Michigan. Five years ago, that number was one in six—meaning there has been recent progress, even if there’s still work to be done. 

What’s driven the progress?

For one, the Women’s Municipal Leadership Program (WMLP), which the league established in 2018 to train and prepare women for leadership positions. Having graduated its fifth class over the weekend, the program has helped 135 women break through glass ceilings in local government. 

“There’s an overwhelming amount of research that has proven organizations with more gender balance and diversity are more likely to achieve greater success but our data illustrated that women experience significant barriers,” said Emily Kieliszewski, Women’s Municipal Leadership Program manager, in a press release. 

Since it began, the number of women in Michigan’s local leadership roles has risen from 16% to 20%.

– Michigan Municipal League

Here’s a look at who just graduated, along with the cities that they represent:

  • Kaitlyn Aldrich – Village Manager, Kingsley
  • Stephanie Baar – Assistant to the City Manager, St. Ignace
  • Macy Barcheski – Director of Finance for Kent County Road Commission
  • Susan Barkman – Assistant to the City Manager, Royal Oak
  • Casey Clear – Executive Assistant to the City Manager, Cheboygan
  • Gretchen Gomolka – City Manager, Brighton
  • Elle Jansen – Community and Economic Development Specialist, Lake Superior Community Partnership
  • Tyra Jonas – Social Media Business Strategist, Lakeshore Collective
  • Michelle King – City Manager, Flushing
  • Jessica Manley – Deputy Manager, Lake Isabella
  • Krashawn Martin – Director of Parks & Recreation, Wyoming
  • Sarah Mistretta – Assistant City Manager/Finance Director, Fraser
  • Karen Mondora – Director of Public Service, Farmington Hills
  • Colleen Niedzwiecki – Human Resource Manager, Grand Blanc Township
  • Tara Peltoma – Clerk/Treasurer, Crystal Falls
  • Jennifer Rosser-Nesbit – Village Clerk, St. Charles
  • Jessica Schisser – City Clerk, Manton
  • Meg Schubert – Assistant to the City Manager, Troy
  • Megan C. Sellers – Operations Supervisor, Oakland County Board of Commissioners
  • LaTarro Traylor – Project Manager, Detroit Police Department
  • Shontae Williams – Deputy Finance Director, Plymouth
  • Rachel Witherspoon – Management Assistant, Milford
  • Mary Worland – Assistant to the Township Manager, Delta Charter Township

“Before I completed the Women’s Municipal Leadership Program, the city’s senior staff were all men. I didn’t see anybody that looked like me in leadership roles. In the program, I saw other women striving for these same positions and a lot of them had the same fears and lack of confidence that I had. It was nice to have that connection with people going through the same things. The program builds you up and gives you the confidence you need to be successful as a municipal executive.”

Gaylord City Manager Kim Aubry, a recent graduate

The program runs over the course of five months and features day-long sessions on topics including municipal budgeting and finance, negotiating and interviewing, and councilor-manager relationships. Its success has been emulated in other states, such as Virginia and Texas, program leaders say.

“There’s no question that if I didn’t go through the Women’s Municipal Leadership Program, I wouldn’t have become a city manager as quickly as I did,” said Eastpointe City Manager Mariah Walton, who graduated from WMLP in 2020. “The program gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. They taught us about standing in your power and really owning who you are. I’m a woman, and a younger woman, and a woman of color. And now I’m among a handful of women of color who are municipal managers. It’s been an incredible journey.”

In addition to the WMLP, the Michigan Municipal League is launching a new program in 2023 for women serving in local elected positions. Find out more at the WMLP website and at the Michigan Municipal League’s website, where you can read about other community-building programs.


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