The Gertrude Stein Political Club of Pittsburgh prides itself on its independence in endorsing political candidates. But some members worry that legacy could be in jeopardy as it seeks new leadership ... and weighs an application from an employee in the Ravenstahl Administration.
The long-standing club has, in recent years, struggled to find and maintain leadership, threatening to fold if members don't step up. Currently, the club has no permanent chair.
On July 12, the club will vote to fill the vacancy at the top until November, when the club will have its formal elections. Nominated to co-chair that vacancy are Jim Sheppard, currently president of the Stonewall Steel City Democrats, and Audrey Glickman, a long-time GSPC member. But some are worried that Sheppard's involvement would be clouded by his role as special assistant to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Sheppard has also worked for former City Councilor Jim Motznik, and he has been rumored as a potential future candidate for that seat, which is currently held by Natalia Rudiak.
If Sheppard were elected, "it gives the impression there is only one gay-rights leader in this town," says Mary Robison, the club treasurer and corresponding secretary who intermittently chairs the organization. Other members, like Joy Sabl, said at the club's June 21 meeting that she was worried about potential overlap between Sheppard's responsibilities at the mayor's office and Stonewall, and the Stein Club. "It'd be fine if it was 'Gee, he's just ours,' but he's not," she said.
"It puts you in an awkward position and puts us in a position," she told Sheppard at the meeting. "While we'd love to have you involved, I still have difficulty with that basic overlap."
Still, Sabl nominated him to co-chair with Glickman, who had reservations of her own. "It's because we don't know your politics yet," Glickman said, stressing the club is pro-women's rights and supports pro-choice candidates.
Sheppard, who became a dues-paying member at the June 21 meeting, said he understood the club's concerns. And while he said the mayor is a personal friend, "it's not my intention to influence an organization one way or another."
When club members asked Sheppard why he was interested in the club, he said it was because he'd heard the organization was in need of leadership. "I know the important role the organization has played in the past and it's been completely cause-oriented. I offered my name to help keep it going."
We reached out to Sheppard via email, and will post his response if we hear back.
The club will accept additional nominations and vote on the vacancy at its next meeting, 7 p.m., July 12, at UCP at Centre and Neville avenues in Oakland.