This is the fourth in a series of five stories during National Women’s History Month 2015 about Junior League members who have made a very visible mark on their communities through their election as the first woman mayor of a major city.
Carole Keeton has a resume filled with “firsts.”
Still a sustaining member of the Junior League of Austin, she began her career as a public school teacher. Serving on the board of trustees of the Austin Independent School District beginning in 1972, she became the board’s first woman president in 1976. (Concurrently, she also served as the first woman president of the board of trustees of Austin Community College.)
The role of first woman mayor of Austin went to Carole when she was elected in 1977. (She remains the city’s only female mayor of Austin, and was also the first mayor of that city elected for three consecutive terms.) While serving as mayor, Carole was selected as one of Time magazine’s “50 Faces for America’s Future.”
Upon leaving office in 1983, Carole was appointed by Texas Governor Mark White to the State Board of Insurance, where she served until 1986 when she resigned to launch an unsuccessful congressional campaign against a long-serving incumbent. In 1994 Carole was elected the first woman to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission, which primarily regulates the production of oil and natural gas, serving as chairman twice.
Carole collected another first in 1998, when she was elected the first woman to serve as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; she won an additional four-year term in 2002.
Finally, in 2006, Carole ran against Texas Governor Rick Perry, citing his inability to provide leadership on key issues, including school finance and government spending.
Even as her public service grew into a statewide focus, Carole’s contributions to the Austin community did not end. She is currently Founder and Executive Director (pro-bono) of Austinites For Action and a director of The Lola Wright Foundation, which supports children and youth, public health and human services, education and community development, and arts and culture.
Carole has also received numerous community awards, and was named one of the state’s one hundred most influential women of the twentieth century by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas (along with JL Midland member Barbara Bush) before being inducted into the Austin Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
But Carole, despite all of her firsts, remains a proud Junior Leaguer. She says, “The League is a collective brain trust – the very best of the power of women – who share a total commitment to positive impact, who teach accountability by example and who speak up and speak out.”
Well said, Carole!