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July 19, 2018

Women Leaders

Deirdre Macnab transformed the Florida League of Women Voters

Jason Garcia | 9/28/2017

Drawing critics

Republican leaders in Tallahassee scoff at the league’s claim of non-partisanship as the group has waded into more polarizing debates in recent years, such as gun control, Medicaid and school choice. The league has, for instance, lobbied hard against legislation to allow Floridians to openly carry guns or to bring guns on to college campuses.

Before the league got involved in gun debates, “I don’t believe that there was an organized group that was an antithesis or a voice that expressed a different point of view that was halfway as organized as the NRA is in Florida,” says Pamela Goodman, former president and CEO of clothing retailer Limited Express, who succeeded Macnab as the league’s statewide president in 2015.

Macnab remains a somewhat polarizing figure, particularly among those in the league reluctant to see it choose sides in deeply contentious issues. “I think perhaps the only brief concerns about her activism was that the league has a long history of studying issues and reaching consensus,” says Linda Chapin, the former mayor of Orange County, who describes Macnab as “a force of nature.”

Partially because of that internal resistance, Macnab lost a bid this year to become president of the national League of Women Voters. She’s now leading the Florida League-backed “FL SUN” campaign to develop co-ops linking groups of homeowners with contractors who will install rooftop solar panels.

“I love history and love to read about real people’s accomplishments,” Macnab says. “And that’s the thing that’s been the most gratifying to me with my work in the league — seeing everyday people begin to understand that they have the power to modify and change their community and their surroundings, to change their state and to change history.” — By Jason Garcia

Over the past decade, the Florida League of Women Voters has grown to more than 6,000 members (people who pay dues and volunteer their time) and nearly 100,000 supporters (people who have given money or signed up for email lists) around the state. The organization is nonpartisan and all-volunteer.

 

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