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Alabama Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley advised Judson College students that success in life is almost always preceded by obstacles and difficulties.

“Before we enter the open doors, we must have open hearts and open minds,” Baxley said Jan. 26 at Judson’s Women’s Conference, themed, “Women Gearing Up For Success.”

“God will direct us through our trials, and we must stay close to him,” she told students at the women’s college in Marion, Ala., affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention

Baxley, a Democrat and a member of the Frazer Memorial Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., said her faith is very important to her.

“I’m happy with my title of lieutenant governor,” she said, “but ‘child of God’ is the highest title we’ll ever hold.”

Baxley, 67, was twice elected state treasurer before her election as the state’s first woman lieutenant governor in 2002.

She worked in local government before deciding to run for state treasurer. “We didn’t have money for television,” she said, “so I went to every county in the state and most cities and looked people in the eye. I asked them to let me work for them in Montgomery.”

In her current position Baxley presides over the state senate.

“Democracy can be messy,” she said. “Each senator represents about 140,000 people, and there are many opinions about how to spend the resources we have. In that sense, the legislature is like a family. Families have to determine the difference in ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ We have to determine what’s best for the whole state.”

Baxley defended the honor of public service, asserting it’s one way to answer the biblical call to help those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

She exhorted her audience not to be cynical about public service. “We don’t tolerate the betrayal of trust from those in public service,” she said, “but we don’t lose our trust in government. Aspiring to serve others through government is noble.”

She also commented on the progress of women in Alabama government, suggesting it had been not a “top down” process but a “bottom up.”

“Women in our state began to work in local government and in the legislature. People saw up close how women could serve. I think women have an extra gene that makes us care-givers and nurturers, and government needs that. Now three top positions in the executive branch are held by women.”

In response to an audience question about her interest in the governor’s race, Baxley replied, “There’s a difference in a decision and an announcement. I’ve made my decision, but I’ve not yet made my announcement.”

Michael J. Brooks is assistant to the president for public relations at Judson College.

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