I first got to know Kathleen Blanco decades ago when she was elected to the Louisiana Legislature. She had held no prior political office and had run a superb campaign to score an upset win. I was the head of legislative affairs and the legislative lobbyist for the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce at the time. I soon got to know her as I lobbied her on issues important to the business community. She looked me in the eye and asked questions from a point of view I had rarely received from the (predominantly) male members of the Legislature. She really wanted to know how a bill would affect ordinary people in her district. I quickly learned that if I didn’t have sound answers to those questions, I shouldn’t expect her vote. I greatly respected that, and we developed a rapport that endured during our careers in the political arena.
Years passed, and Kathleen climbed the political ladder from state representative to an elected member of the powerful Public Service Commission and then lieutenant governor. That led to her election as governor. By then I had become the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. We became engaged again on many high-profile issues important to the state and every person in it. Our roles had changed, but her primary question to me on any given issue remained: “How will this help or hurt ordinary people in Louisiana?” I enjoyed the fact that I still had to have satisfactory answers to those questions.
Kathleen Blanco was a lot of things — Christian, wife, mother, teacher, outdoorsman, public servant and champion of middle class values. She was a proud Democrat but not a partisan politician. She was defined by her faith — in God and in Louisiana.
May God give us more public servants — and human beings — like her in the years ahead.
retired association executive