St. Charles City Council to drop use of 'alderman' in favor of gender-neutral language
Those sitting on the St. Charles City Council will soon be known as alderpersons rather than aldermen.
At the city council's government operations committee meeting on Tuesday, aldermen unanimously voted to recommend the city follow the lead of the state and use the word "alderpersons" instead of "aldermen." Their recommendation will now go to the full city council.
"The purpose of gender-neutral language is to avoid word choices which may be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning by implying that one sex or social gender is the norm," City Administrator Heather McGuire told aldermen. "Using gender-neutral language also helps reduce gender stereotyping, promotes social change and contributes to achieving gender equality. Gender-neutral language is more than a matter of political correctness, but a language that powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behavior, and perceptions."
Last year, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation to change the titles for elected officials in the state from "alderman" and "congressman" to "alderperson" and "congressperson" to be more gender-inclusive.
"We are recommending that we follow suit in the city of St. Charles and modify our ordinances accordingly to reflect that inclusivity," McGuire said.
McGuire said St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek wants to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the coming year.
"I know that she supports this as well," she said. "I just wanted to make sure to make that comment on her behalf."
Second Ward Alderperson Rita Ann Payleitner is currently the only woman on the St. Charles City Council. She noted that references like "Mr. Chairman" will also have to be dropped.
"I know it's going to take some time to adjust to the change in language that we're all accustomed to, but we will get there, and we will make that effort to get there," she said.