Phyllis McQuaid was on the St. Louis Park school board from 1974 to 1978 and Mayor from 1978 to 1982. She became State Senator in January 1983 and served in that capacity until 1990. She was Park’s first woman Mayor.
From St. Louis Park Magazine, March 2013:
I’d been on church council, PTA and attended school board meetings. In 1972, the school board was deciding which schools to close due to low enrollment. Some neighborhood groups had their act together in making their opinions known. But no one was speaking up for my neighborhood school. Although I was nervous, I spoke up to the school board. Then I joined a committee, attended many meetings and learned a lot.
Ultimately, our neighborhood school was closed. But my willingness to speak out about issues people cared about led some to ask me to run for school board. I agreed. I did a lot of door knocking, learned every street in the city and had fun talking to people. I was elected to the school board for a four-year term and was later re-elected.
Shortly after my re-election, Mayor Irving Stern announced that he was going to run for state Senate. There was one candidate running unopposed for the mayor’s office, Jim Heltzer. With only one day left to file, I received a phone call. Some folks believed that there should be more than one person in the race and that I should run for mayor. I agreed and campaigned the same way I had for school board. I had an amazingly good reception and remember one man saying, “It’s about time we had a woman mayor.”
Others thought it was a joke, that a woman had no chance of winning. But I did win and I felt lucky to have that school board experience and the support of a great city staff.