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Running Like a Girl An Interview with County Legislator Susan Labuhn

Susan Labuhn

By Ginna Hensel, ECS Student Reporter

Women’s roles are quickly changing in this world, but the credit often goes to celebrities or social media “influencers.”  We overlook the innovators, the movers-and-shakers that live right next door. Susan Labuhn is Salamanca-born and raised.  A true inspiration, she is the first female legislator of District 5, which consists of towns Cold Spring, Great Valley, Red House, and Salamanca, the city of Salamanca, and part of the Seneca Nation.  On Sep. 26, I had the pleasure to sit down and meet with Sue (as she prefers). I was able to gather the inside scoop on how she got into politics and some advice for her fellow females.

Would you be able to tell me a bit about your childhood?

My father nicknamed me the “Protestor.” I was always a champion.  I was always speaking up whether it was a puppy in need, kid I thought was being bullied, and being the sixth out of seventh child, I kind of had to stand up for myself anyways.  When I was in seventh grade, a boy asked me to a church dance and afterwards he offered to walk me home.  He stopped at the main street bridge and told me that he wasn’t allowed to go past the other side of the river because the immigrants lived there.  It was an “aha” moment that kind of lit a fire in me, to fight.

What was school like for you?

In school, I was a social person. I wasn’t nosy, but I always have made (and continue to make) it my business to know what important things are going on. I was the head of the cheerleading-wrestling squad. I was able to open doors for us— we were actually asked to run an invitational!  In situations where there was great risk involved, I still championed through.  I don’t have a problem leading a pack. I ran for office my junior year, and won the vice-presidential nomination. I wanted to run for president my senior year, but we were still just women. My boyfriend encouraged another male friend to run against me and of course I lost, but no hard feelings.

What made you consider going into politics?

I always liked politics, I held positions in high school, I was president of the Teachers-Association, and President of Three County School Nurses, but I still wanted to get into politics.  My father ran for council twice, and won once, but he died two days later after winning the election. Politics is in my blood, and my opportunity to go into politics came soon after.

Why did you decide to run for county legislator?

Out of the blue one day, I was sitting in Langworthys with my 80-some-year-old mother. One of my friends said that they were trying to get someone to run for legislator. I spoke up and said that I was running, shocking myself.  Walking out of the dinner, I was thinking that I should probably call my husband and let him know.

What was it like running your own campaign?

Well, I didn’t know anything, nothing about petitions, going door to door, platform, money for signs, none of that.  I bought 50 signs out of my own money, thinking it was a lot when in reality it really wasn’t.  With only help from my family and one friend, we went door to door, petitioned, called, and did what we needed to do.     

What was it like to win the election?

I was like holy crap. I was in awe that I won. I said I would be the first woman to win legislator in that district and I did it.

What are some of your roles as being a county legislator?

Well, I started out as the whip and worked my way up to assistant minority, then minority leader.  I eventually told the Republicans that we needed to be more bi-partisan. Some adjustments were made and I eventually became vice-chairwoman.  With that, I am also the Chairman of the Finance.  We take care of the money.  In addition, I am on the Senior Services Committee. Having a background in nursing made it a natural fit.

What is your favorite thing about being a county legislator?

Meeting the people. Truthfully, going through our county too.  We have a beautiful county, they call us the Enchanted Mountains for a reason!

What is your advice to girls who dream of holding a political office?

Do it, don’t be afraid.  Stop the barriers and excuses of why you shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t.  Do it.  We need women in politics.  Women are more apt to be problem solvers.  Stop the barriers.  Run for offices in school, run for local offices, school board, town board.  Do it.  Women are more prepared to solve problems, and are often more equipped to do it logically.  Do it.  Run for office!

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