The Heroines

Margalee Wright

is honored with a Brick from Elwin and Joyce Barrett, Pam Bjork, Larry Doeblin, Delores Craig-Moreland, Nicholi Flynn, Betty Richard, s Charles and D'Lee Ringling, and Andy Solter.

 Margalee  Wright
Margalee Wright is a homegrown Wichitan who has made and continues to make many contributions to her city of Wichita and her state of Kansas. Currently, Margalee is the coordinator of the Neighborhood Initiative; she is working with city and county governments, law enforcement, schools and nonprofit organizations to coordinate resources for neighborhoods. In Margalee's words: "It is a process... of people connecting with people in order to identify and solve problems... of connecting people and resources so that they can make life better in their neighborhood." Her job is to help pull all of the people, all of the resources, all of the problems together and keep tabs on who is working with whom to solve what.

While growing up in Wichita, she made many community connections. As a child, she lived in Planeview, south Wichita and west Wichita. She has lived in the River Park neighborhood and, since 1983, in North Riverside. Her parents Vernon and Dora Pilkington, her sister Linda Hickam, her grown daughters Liesel Wright and Lorilee Wright, and her granddaughter Sage Lawrence, all live in Wichita.

Margalee holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Phillips University in Enid, OK, and taught in public schools there and in Wichita for seven years. She pursued graduate studies at Wichita State University in public administration.

Margalee has had an active political life. From January 1985 to 1991, she served on the Kansas Corporation Commission, appointed by Gov. John Carlin. Before taking the KCC seat, she was a Wichita City Commissioner from April 1981-1985, during which she served one term as Mayor. She has also been a member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and president of the Wichita chapter of the League of Women Voters. When her term on the KCC was over, she returned to the school system, working as supervisor of Development Activities and Grants.

Margalee's political involvement provided a variety of experiences. In 1983, as Mayor she traveled to France representing the city of Wichita. In 1987, she was part of a small group of journalists and elected people who went on a fact-finding educational tour of Nicaragua. In 1988, Commissioner Margalee Wright testified on behalf of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners before the House of Representatives' Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education in support of increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In 1995, Margalee was one of three recipients of Wichita's Excellence in Public Service Award. In 1997, she was part of President Clinton's Philadelphia Summit for America's Future, now called America's Promise.

A former Kansas Corporation Commission member said Margalee's tenure on the commission was during a time when the commission was not considered consumer friendly. A supporter said, however, that Margalee was a strong consumer advocate and waked a tough path, never sacrificing her heart or her smarts.

The contributors to her brick believe she is a heroine because Margalee moves ahead no matter how overwhelming the odds may appear. She works for a cause because she knows it is the right thing to do, an important trademark of her character. When there is encouragement to go along with mainstream thinking, Margalee can be counted on to honestly speak her truth. While working with various city groups and grappling with tough problems, one of Margalee's guiding strategies is to: 1) choose to be fully present, (2) pay attention to what is happening during the process (3) speak your truth without blame or judgment and (4) be open to the outcome, not attached to the outcome.

When you walk into Margalee's office, you know she is an independent woman who has Kansas in her heart. She has dishes decorated with sunflowers, large silk sunflowers and a photograph of a Kansas field of sunflowers -- with one lone sunflower standing tall above the rest. When talking to a reporter from "The Wichita Eagle" she said, "That particular picture reminds us to stick our heads up, get our perspective, know why we're here. You have to respect sunflowers because they follow the sun and are deeply rooted in the earth. They're sturdy, they're hardy and they never give up, even if you mow them down."

Whether or not she knew it when she made that statement, Margalee was describing herself. Just like the sunflower, her strength comes from her commitment to her family, her network of friends and her spiritual beliefs. These sources of strength have given her roots so that she can stand tall to be the networker and the circlemaker, while pursing her vision: "A Better Life for All" in her city, her state, her country and the world.

September 1, 1999