Shirley Ursala Czosek Borhauer (1926–2013)

Shirley Borhauer was a representative from Bella Vista (Benton County) in the Eighty-third, Eighty-fourth, and Eighty-fifth Arkansas General Assemblies, serving from 2001 to 2006.

Shirley Ursala Czosek was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 2, 1926, to Edmund Stanislaw Czosek, a screw machine operator at the Felt and Tarrant Manufacturing Company, and Clara Victoria Mindikowski Czosek, who was a Democratic election judge in Chicago’s Ward 26. She had one older sister, Phillis Mildred Czosek Black.

Czosek attended Chicago Public Schools and graduated from Blue Island High School in 1944. She worked in the office at the Dodge Chicago Aircraft Engine Plant, which made engines for B-29 bombers, and then entered the last class of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps and trained at the Little Company of Mary School of Nursing near Chicago. Graduating as a registered nurse in 1948, she worked at St. Francis Hospital and for the Chicago Public Health Department.

In 1949, she married William N. Borhauer Jr. and changed her political affiliation to Republican. After the birth of her daughter, Janice, she began working as a school nurse. Borhauer was named a Fellow of the American School Health Association, and she was involved with the Illinois Social Hygiene League, developing a sex education program for junior high students and making promotional presentations to area Parent Teacher Association (PTA) organizations.

Borhauer was active in community organizations as a member of the Queen of Martyrs Ladies Auxiliary Knights of Columbus, vice president of the Beverly Business and Professional Women Club, and president of the Alsip-Garden Homes Salvation Army Service Unit. She also earned a BA from Governor’s State University in Chicago in 1974.

In 1975, Borhauer ran as a Republican for alderman of Chicago’s Nineteenth Ward. Her primary issues were opposition to pay raises for aldermen without citizen input, upgrades to streets, creation of a ward zoning board, and regulations for local bars. Although she finished third among four candidates, she forced the Democratic machine candidate into a runoff, which he lost. She wrote a book called Shirley Who? about the experience, narrating the campaign events documented with newspaper clippings.

After her thirty-two-year career as a school nurse, Borhauer and her husband retired in 1987 to Bella Vista, Arkansas, where she remained an active volunteer and began a career in elective office in Arkansas. She was a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Bentonville/Bella Vista, volunteered at the Benton County Women’s Shelter, served six years on the Bella Vista Property Owners Association Board of Directors, and won a position on the parish council at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Bella Vista, where she and her husband were in charge of the food pantry. In 1996, she was elected justice of the peace on the Benton County Quorum Court, defeating incumbent Bill Fortune in the Republican primary with 63 percent of the ballots. As a member of the Quorum Court’s Environmental Committee, she worked on a “junkyard” ordinance, hoping to make the highways more attractive, and for a moratorium on billboards.

In 2000, Borhauer ran for state representative from District 4 (Bella Vista, Pea Ridge in Benton County, and western Carroll County). Concerned about the environment, she pledged not to put up any campaign signs, saying she did not want to add to litter on the highways. She won a three-person race in the Republican primary (54 percent) against former Rep. Jim Sheets and Jim Parsons and was unopposed in the general election. Borhauer was also an alternate Bush delegate at the Republican National Convention that year.

During her first term, she served on the Public Transportation, Aging, Legislative Affairs, and Joint Legislative Audit committees. Borhauer felt welcomed by the Women’s Caucus, which helped her learn the ins and outs of the House, and she co-sponsored and worked with other legislators on several pieces of public health and nursing-related legislation. She was named one of the Grand Champions for Children by a coalition of nonprofits for supporting all seventeen of the bills they endorsed.

When she ran for reelection to the House in 2002, Borhauer’s new District 98 included the Benton County communities of Bella Vista, Pea Ridge, and Little Flock. She received 68 percent in the Republican primary against Jim Parsons and was unopposed in the general election. During the 2003 session, she served on the Public Health, Welfare, and Labor; Aging, Children, and Youth; Legislative and Military Affairs; and Joint Performance Review committees and was elected to the Arkansas Legislative Council. She passed legislation to require motorboat operators to use lanyard-type engine cutoff switches (Act 127), legislation requiring law enforcement officers to complete training concerning sexual assaults (Act 509), and appropriations for the Area Agency on Aging, Bella Vista Library, Veterans Council, and Little Flock and Pea Ridge fire departments.

In her 2004 campaign, Borhauer stressed that she had worked for the health and welfare of children and the elderly, to remove the permits for approval for new nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to establish a state veterans’ home, and to acquire funds for local public projects. Her campaign materials added that she opposed same-sex marriages. Borhauer handily defeated Jim Parsons in the Republican primary (73–27 percent) and was unopposed in the general election.

In her third and final term, Borhauer continued to serve on the Aging, Children, and Youth and the Public Health committees. She was appointed to the House Rules and the Joint Budget committees, and she continued on the Arkansas Legislative Council. She sponsored legislation giving control officers the power to issue citations for illegal dumps (Act 75), providing an alternative method of incorporation as a city or town (Act 1237), and making an amendment to the Child Maltreatment Act (Act 1706). Borhauer also sponsored a legislatively submitted constitutional amendment authorizing bingo and raffles for charitable purposes, which passed to become Amendment 84.

At the end of Borhauer’s legislative career, editorial writer George Arnold praised her centrist approach to politics and for being “a Republican who never allowed party ideology to trump her own good sense.” Borhauer described herself as “a little old grandma, a Catholic Polish lady from Chicago,” and added, “I’ve always been for the underdog—that’s why some people think I’m a liberal or a Democrat, because I try to help people who are poor and disabled, and sick, and seniors.”

Borhauer continued to be involved in her community after her legislative service. She was emcee for the Northwest Arkansas Gridiron Show in 2006, served on the board of St. Mary’s Hospital, and was chair for the Bentonville/Bella Vista AAUW and the Benton County Republican Women. Borhauer successfully ran for a term on the Bella Vista City Council to help Bella Vista in its transformation into a city, which it could do thanks to her legislation. In 2009, she supported a tax increase for the Bella Vista Fire and Police Departments. She moved back to the Chicago area, where she died on December 10, 2013.

For additional information:
Arnold, George. “Toward the Center.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 14, 2006, p. 6B.

Barr, Lorrie, and Joanne Dejanovich. “Shirley Borhauer Hits the Ground Running as a Freshman Legislator.” Arkansas Nursing News, no. 1 (June 2001): 12–13.

Borhauer, Shirley. Shirley Who? New York: Vantage Press, 1977.

Lanford, Marilyn. “For 20 Years, Bella Vista Retiree Has Contributed to State.” Arkansas Catholic, December 2, 2006.

Lookadoo, Gary. “Local Councilwoman to Retire.” Benton County Daily Record, October 10, 2008.

Shirley Borhauer video interview with Donna Hutchinson and Lindsley Armstrong Smith, March 13, 2006. “Women in the Arkansas General Assembly,” University of Arkansas Women’s Giving Circle and Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics & Society project. David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Lindsley Armstrong Smith and Stephen A. Smith
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


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