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The Alabama Voter
Summer 2009 Edition

Published September 13, 2009

2009 League of Women Voters of Alabama

President's Paragraphs - Greetings from the New Kid on the Block

Last spring I had the honor to accept the nomination for a position on the LWVAL Board after a “sabbatical” of about 25 years, while I worked full time and tended to family matters.  I was thrilled, because I had regarded my first experience on the State Board as one of my favorites.  In those days, I did Voter Service and Election Law Reform, though for the first year, I co-chaired Voter Service with Johnnie Carr, civil rights activist, also President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and close friend of Rosa Parks.  I hope I did well by the state board, but I also know it provided me wonderful “on the job training” in public relations, the quirky machinations of our state politics, treading carefully as we finessed agreements with the “big guns” of the political parties in order to put on statewide televised debates for various state offices, etc. 

The board then was amazing—real giants in their knowledge, perceptiveness, vision, and more—and pulling it all off before laptop computers, email and the internet.  These women generally did not work “outside the home,” as the saying goes. They were extremely effective in many areas, but suffered defeats in others, such as the Equal Rights Amendment and “finishing the job” of replacing the 1901 Alabama Constitution that was started with the passage the Judicial Articles to the Alabama Constitution of 1901 to the “finish the job.”  They remained undaunted, and because of the mission of the League and the talent surrounding me, I loved being on the state board.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked if I would accept being State Co-President of the LWVAL, sharing responsibilities with Charlotte Ward.  Charlotte is one of those giants in knowledge, perceptiveness, vision and more, so I agreed—knowing that my enthusiasm would be supported by her wide range of knowledge and experience.  It is taking me a while to know all the fine points of this particular job, but in many ways, the League is the League, regardless of the level—local, state, or national.  We have to balance the dual responsibility of promoting “active and informed participation of citizens in government” in a strictly nonpartisan way, with exercising our advocacy side for selected issues. 

Our progress is sometimes agonizingly slow—for example, we are still working on reforming the 1901 Alabama Constitution.  And we have greater challenges in attracting and retaining members, and developing new leadership.  All too often, the same talented, committed people are recycled on local and state boards.  And we are stretched thin.  Witness that three of the local presidents serve on the state board, and that in a fourth league, the spokesperson (me) has joined the LWVAL board.  Several state board members are now retired, sharing their impressive experience and skills with the League.  And happily, we have celebrated having some new talent that will bring vigor to our board. 

We recently held our LWVAL Planning meeting, and we have wonderful dreams for the upcoming year—a big year, considering the changes that are bound to come with the 2010 elections.  We are exploring statewide televised gubernatorial debates, partnering with other entities that are compatible with League policies and procedures.  We are looking into where we may need to go in the area of Education…so much has changed in that arena that is not reflected in our current Education position.  We are involved in exciting projects and presentations and internet opportunities, about which you will read in this edition of the LWVAL Voter.  We need everyone’s help and commitment to the stated goals and purposes of the League in Alabama.  Please join us.  

-- Kathryn Byrd,
LWVAL Co-President
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      League of Women Voters of Alabama,
      call 205 871-8194 or visit on-line at http://www.lwval.org.