Monday, April 30, 2012

Visit to Albertville

State’s first lady visits Albertville
By Malarie Haven, Sand Mountain Reporter

Alabama’s first lady Dianne Bentley has many passions in life, but her first priority is and always has been her family.“It’s such an honor to serve our great state with my husband because we follow God’s will for our lives,” she said.Bentley addressed a captivated audience during the Albertville Chamber of Commerce’s annual Professional Assistants Day Luncheon on Wednesday, where she shared her perspective of the first year in the governor’s mansion.
The first lady shared the surprise and uncertainty she felt when she was thrust into the leading lady position in the state after her husband, Robert, was elected as governor.
“When my husband first decided to run for governor, I have to admit I was not very comfortable with the idea of my prospective new role,” she said.
She was immediately commissioned to form an agenda, and found the task more difficult than she imagined.
“I had not thought of an agenda with the election, the transition and inauguration,” she said. “I had just really inherited this role as the first lady because I didn’t run for the job.
“My agenda has been ever evolving, but my priority was starting our new home and supporting my husband.”
When she moved into the governor’s mansion, which she refers to as “the grand old lady,” she was surprised to learn she and her husband had to provide most of the furnishings for their living quarters. Because Gov. Bentley did not immediately take a salary, she said they settled for just a few basic pieces.
“We had paper taped to the windows for privacy,” she said. “It was like camping out. You have to make do with what you have.”
She soon learned of a group called “Friends of the Mansion,” which seeks to keep the mansion in “historical and practical shape,” and helped pass the First Lady Dianne Bentley Mansion Preservation Act last year. The act makes donations of private money, furniture and other acquisitions to the Friends of the Mansion group tax deductable.
“My goal is that we can furnish the private quarters so the governor’s family can move in and only have to bring their personal items,” she said.
April 27, 2011
After the tornadoes of April 27 last year, Bentley found a bigger cause to support.
“The Lord has ways of putting your priorities in order,” she said. “As I sat and watched (meteorologist) James Spann on the computer, I saw a huge tornado heading for our hometown of Tuscaloosa.
“We experienced the same fears and concerns I’m sure everybody else did. Where were our children and were they safe? My husband had to go on live TV without knowing this. Thankfully our homes and our lives were spared.
“Mansion issues are of little concern when there are those who have lost their homes and their lives.”
Bentley said she was amazed at the number of volunteers that worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the storms to help the devastated areas recover.
“As we toured the state, seeing the disaster of Tuscaloosa multiplied about 35 times over, we saw volunteers immediately out helping one another, not waiting on the government to come out and help,” she said.
In addition, Bentley worked with the Scholastic Summer Reading Initiative, which provides 500 books to needy Alabama schools each year, and she seeks to renew and build interest in Alabama products.
Today, the state’s leading lady offers is focusing on the Family Justice Centers, which work with victims of domestic violence and child abuse, and the foster care system.
“We must end the violence and promote healthy relationships because when the people of our state are healthy, our state also improves,” she said.
“My other passion is foster care and adoption. Robert and I have two adopted sons, but we like to say we’ve loved all four of them so long we don’t remember which two they are.
“It is important that our children feel a sense of belonging and hope. Children are our future, and if they’re released from foster care at 18 without parents, they go through life alone.
After the luncheon, Bentley made her way to the Albertville Museum where dozens of local residents lined up to meet or reconnect with her, including four of her college sorority sisters and Albertville resident Jeanette McClendon, whose granddaughter works as Bentley’s personal assistant.
“She’s a precious lady,” McClendon said. “My granddaughter just fell in love with not only her, but with the governor too. She said they are two of the finest people she has ever met.”

No comments:

Post a Comment