Triple Date – Conversation with former Senators Alicia Salisbury and Nancy Parrish, October 23, 2020
Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
In this short 2020 Statehouse Conversation two former Kansas State Senators, Nancy Parrish and Alicia Salisbury recall their first year serving in the Kansas Senate. In 1984 Shawnee County elected three women Senators: Nancy Parrish, a Democrat; Jeannie Hoferer, a Republican, and Alicia Salisbury, a Republican. Martin Hawver, a reporter for the Topeka Capitol Journal at that time, referred to them as a "Triple Date." Two of the three former senators discuss briefly what it was like in the Senate in 1985 when they took their seats and how they were treated by their male colleagues. Salisbury and Parrish saw women's issues as "people issues." Salisbury relates being removed from a conference committee on an education bill because she "did what's best for the schools she represented."
Nancy Parrish is originally from Cedar Vale, Kansas in Chautauqua County, the southeast, south central part of the state. She received her bachelor's degree from Kansas State University, her master's in Special Education from the University of Kansas, and her law degree from Washburn University. Parrish represented Senate District 19 in the Kansas Senate from 1980 until 1992. After her service in the Kansas Senate, Parrish was appointed Secretary of Revenue, serving in the Governor's cabinet from 1992 until 1994 when Governor Finney appointed her as judge for the Third Judicial District in Shawnee County. She has served as Chief Judge of that court from 2005 to 2013 and was serving as judge at the time of this interview.
Alicia Salisbury, former Kansas State Senator representing District 20 in Topeka, served in the Kansas legislature from 1985 until 2000. She served as the Vice President of the Senate, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Vice Chair of the Education Committee, and Vice Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Salisbury earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas in 1961. Prior to service in the Kansas legislature, she served on the Kansas State Board of Education for four years. Salisbury was a founding Chair of the Kansas Action for Children and served on the Board of Directors of Kansas, Inc. Her volunteer service includes Leadership Kansas, former chair; Kids Count Steering Committee, past president of the Junior League of Topeka and National Conference of State Legislatures Executive Committee. Salisbury is married to John Salisbury and has two children and several grandchildren.
Joan Wagnon: So, would you talk a little bit about what the Senate culture was like when you came in. There weren’t very many women, but I’m interested to know how you were treated.
Alicia Salisbury: I thought we were treated well.
Nancy Parrish: I think for the most part. There were certainly some good old boys that were in the Senate at that time. Some of them were wonderful. I know a group of them. We were all from Shawnee County, you and I and Jeannie Hofer were all from Shawnee County. of course, the folks from out of town, they saw each other in the evenings. We didn’t. I sat by Frank Gaines. I always got the little short version of what was going to happen that day because they’d talked about it the night before. So I wasn’t aware of a lot of it, but, boy, was he right about a lot of what was going to happen because he talked with the other guys when they were out having dinner and whatever at night.
AS: I know. Didn’t Frank call us “girls“?
NP: Oh, yes.
AS: He was a kick. He made me laugh even when he was doing that.
NP: We probably were not smart enough to really have a Women’s Caucus at that time to really gather some strength in numbers. I don’t know that we did.
AS: I don’t think any one of us really came in strictly for feminine issues. Education is not a feminine issue. Children isn’t a feminine issue.
NP: Right. I remember a reporter asking me if I was going to be supportive of women’s issues. I said, “I think women’s issues are really people issues.”
AS: I said the same thing.
NP: I didn’t see the difference. We were talking just a little bit earlier, but, Alicia, do you remember, the three of us were elected from Shawnee County, and Martin Hawver, who at that time was a reporter for the Topeka Capital Journal, he calls us “The Triple Date.” That probably got a little bit of play because it was unusual for three women to be elected from Shawnee County.
AS: It kind of felt special.
NP: Absolutely. It certainly was an honor. I think it was a little bit hard in some ways to get along, but then again, there were probably some times that—I don’t know if they went easier on us because we were women when we were arguing. I don’t know that I recall that. Perhaps, maybe, at times.
AS: Don’t you think though, even though there were initially good old boys, don’t you think it was easier then than it would be today?
NP: That’s an interesting question. In what way do you think?
AS: I think there was more civility.
NP: That’s a good point. I don’t think that we were treated in any hostile way or anything like that.
AS: Maybe in some bumbling way.
NP: Yes, maybe at times. I’m trying to remember if they told us jokes like they would tell their colleagues. I’m not so sure. But I don’t think during that time that people were as concerned about that, that might be sexual harassment or reason to report someone.
AS: I don’t think anyone gave that any thought.
NP: It was a little different time as far as that.
JW: One real quick question. You were from different political parties. Did that get in the way of your working together?
AS: It didn’t from my perspective. I have said before, and I would continue to say, we’re not going to agree with everyone all the time, but you certainly respect, and being respectful is so important.
NP: Right. I don’t think that it did get in the way. You knew certain things. There was certain issues where you did get persuasion by your political party to vote in a certain way.
AS: That’s right.
NP: And we understand that, I think. But I don’t think it caused problems among us, those of us from Shawnee County.
AS: And you and I shared an interest in Shawnee County Schools.
AS: And I would talk to you about it because at that time, being Vice Chairman of the Education Committee, I was also kind of automatically a member of the Conference Committee. I sort of fell out of line because when I found out what effect it would have on the schools that I represented, I would have to vote with my constituents, and suddenly I was no longer on the Conference Committee for the rest of my life.
NP: I had forgotten that you were on it. I was on the Conference Committee as the ranking minority member on Education. I’d forgotten that.
AS: That’s why we talked about it. You said, “Well, you’ve got to do what’s best for the schools you represented.” I heard that, and I did it. And suddenly—
NP: You’re pulled off. Wow.
AS: I didn’t know I was going to be.
JW: Okay. Thank you all very much. This is just a short clip to tease some people about how much fun it is to be a state legislator.
[End of File]
November 9, 1948
State Senator, Kansas Senate 1980-1992
Member, Senate Local Government 1980-1983
Member, Senate Governmental Organization 1980-1983
Member, Senate Judiciary 1984-1992
Member, Senate Education 1984-1992
Member, Senate Assessment and Taxation 1984-1990
Member, Senate Ways and Means 1990-1992
Secretary, Department of Revenue (KDOR) 1993-1994
September 20, 1939
Member, State Board of Education (SBOE) 1980-1983
State Senator, Kansas Senate 1985-2000
Member, Senate Public Health and Welfare 1985-Present
Member, Senate Local Government 1985-1988
Vice-Chair, Senate Education 1985-1988
Member, Senate Legislative and Congressional Apportionment 1985-Present
Member, Senate Assessment and Taxation 1985-1988
Vice-Chair, Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations 1985-1986
Member, Legislative Educational Planning Committee (LEPC, Joint) 1986-1988
Vice-Chair, Senate Economic Development 1987-1987
Chair, Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations 1987-1987
Member, Senate Economic Development 1988-Present
Member, Joint Committee on Economic Development 1988-1988
Member, Senate Ways and Means 1989-1990
Chair, Senate Labor, Industry, and Small Business 1989-Present
Member, Senate Organization, Calendar and Rules 1989-2000
Vice-Chair, Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance 1989-Present
Member, Joint Committee on Arts and Cultural Resources 1990-Present
Vice-Chair, Senate Ways and Means 1991-Present
Chair, Senate Commerce 1992-Present
Vice President, Kansas Senate 1995-2000
Statehouse, Topeka, KS