Citizen of the Year: Government

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Gov. Kay Ivey

On the 16th day of the Regular Session of the 2017 Alabama Legislature, Kay Ivey’s life and career changed. With only three hours’ notice, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey became the 54th Governor of the State of Alabama.

By Lori M. Quiller

“Most new governors have a three-month period to transition into the job. I had three hours,” Gov. Ivey laughed. “So, yes, I had to hit the ground running. My first full day as governor was precisely halfway through the legislative session. I knew as lieutenant governor I had to be prepared to step up to the Office of Governor because that’s one of two main jobs you have as lieutenant governor. We tried to plan for what we would do should something happen so we were not totally unprepared, but you never fully expect to be called upon.”

Gov. Ivey credits her time as lieutenant governor and presiding over the Alabama Senate where she had the opportunity to meet and build relationships with the legislative leadership also helped make the transition to the Governor’s Office.

Since April 2017, Gov. Ivey and her staff have made great strides inn strengthening Alabama’s economy and business community. With an unemployment rate at 3.6, the lowest ever on record, Gov. Ivey has crisscrossed the state for what she considers one of her favorite parts of the job.

“I do truly enjoy meeting people,” Gov. Ivey said. “Speaking to our residents, hearing their success stories, finding out what can be done to help them improve their lives…I really do enjoy that part of my job. The hard part is figuring out ways to make their lives better.”

Gov. Ivey said she is proud Alabama’s economy is “strong, robust and growing. That means there are more people working now than ever before. While we may still have our problems, today more men and women are gainfully employed, enabling them to raise a family, own a home, and contribute to our economy. We’ve announced $2.3 billion in new investments, which results in more than 5,000 high-paying, good-quality jobs in the state.”

Gov. Ivey has experienced a long and distinguished political career in Montgomery, which began as treasurer in 2002 and 2006, and lieutenant governor in 2010 and 2014. But growing up as a young girl in Camden, Ala., a life in the Governor’s Mansion wasn’t something she dreamed about.

“Oh, good heavens no!” She laughed. “There were only 35 in my high school’s graduating class in Camden. I just wanted to go to Auburn University and do two things: Graduate with a B or better average and play in the marching band. I got to do both of those plus a whole lot more.”

In fact, most people may not know that as a senior at Auburn University, Ivey and her roommate won the first Alpha Psi Rodeo Goat Milking Contest. Participants were on one side of the arena and the goats on the other. The object was to get a goat, milk it, and the first team to deposit the milk was the winner. That tenacious, winning attitude would continue to serve her well long after graduation.

She began her career as a high school teacher in California, which took three interviews to get the job but not due to her credentials — it was due to the political atmosphere of the South in the 1960s. After a few years, she relocated to Mobile where she found herself in a unique position. Not wanting to be a substitute teacher, she applied for a public relations job at the largest bank in the area.

“The manager smiled and told me they didn’t have a PR department. I said they needed to start one being the largest bank in the middle of the largest school system in the state and would need to grow its customer base. He said they didn’t have a position for me. Two weeks later they called me back and asked me to come in and talk to them about my idea of growing their customer base. Juniors and Seniors in school are going to want to have a bank account, get a loan to buy a car, and if they have a relationship with someone from the bank’s staff, they’d be more apt to become a customer,” Gov. Ivey explained. “It just made sense.”

Using one of her assignments from her California classroom for economics and civics where local business and civic leaders would guest lecture to her students, Ivey created a similar program for the bank and schools in Mobile County. She wrote the curricula and shared it with other banks and the economic education program soon took off catching the eye of American Banking Association, which asked Ivey to start a pilot in three states.

Her first venture into education parlayed into an extremely productive decade-long career in the banking industry, which is one reason why Gov. Ivey insists on being a strong advocate for education and business.

“We must continue working with our educators today so they know what our businesses need. Our educators need to know the expectations of the business community, and the business community needs to know what our educators need in the classroom. It’s an ongoing partnership. We must have workers for today and tomorrow who are well-trained and equipped to keep up with coding, computer programming, and software design to keep us pushing forward,” Gov. Ivey said.

From the beginning of her career to the present, Gov. Ivey has been a trailblazer for women.

“I’ve stood on some very strong shoulders,” Gov. Ivey said. “My mother was not only an amazing wife and mother, but she also made all my clothes until I was in the 11th grade. She was vice president of the Camden National Bank. We have some very competent, capable women in leadership positions across Alabama, and my hope is that our young women today will see these women and set goals for their future as well.”

 

 

 

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