I regret that I must pass on some sad news tonight about a true hero in our midst here in Utah. (Obituary here)
While there was no shortage of public figures who tried to muscle in and use the non-partisan Fair Boundaries redistricting effort in 2009 for their personal or partisan advantage, there was a true hero in our midst that you may not have known about. I believe there was just one senate district out of 29 which met the signature requirement for the Fair Boundaries initiative effort. Athleen Godfrey spearheaded a robust and successful effort in South Davis County to gather enough signatures to put the Fair Boundaries initiative proposal on the ballot. Whether they gathered enough signatures, I don't recall, but they knew they had more or less met the requirement and were disappointed the rest of the county and state were not following along.
Athleen was a retired nurse who used a walker to get around, but boy did she know how to use a telephone and a pen and a keyboard; she had been afflicted by polio in her youth but that did not stop her from doing some amazing things for the fair redistricting effort and for the family and community that she loved.
Over the years, she has written a number of fair minded letters to the editor of the Davis County Clipper and the Trib about non-partisan reforms and reasonable approaches to the often unreasonable overtures of the Utah legislature. Athleen donated time, phone calls, hosted signature gathering events and even donated money to the Fair Boundaries effort. And so effective was she, that she delivered the signature quota for her senate district. Hopefully someday she will take her place in our collective memory and history next to notable figures such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others who took their honored places in history posthumously for their efforts to enfranchise all Americans; an activity that we are all interested in extrapolating to make all votes truly count equally.
To put it in perspective, if there had been just 25 more people exactly like Athleen throughout the state of Utah, we would likely have been one of the lucky few states where the redistricting process rested firmly in the grasp of the people.
I hadn't heard from Athleen in a while, so I sent her a postcard this summer I believe. I hope she received it as it sounds like her health was failing.
Athleen passed away October 1st at the age of 79 and we will miss her dearly.