Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, Rep. Marti Coley, Sec. Cindy O'Connell and Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson (left to right) participate in an annual JMI Women in Government panel for the delegates at Florida Girls State.

By Dana Edwards
Jennifer Carroll told more than 300 Girls State delegates that being Florida’s first African-American Lt. Governor was “never part of my personal plan – but, sometimes, you have to be open to higher plans.”<
Speaking on a panel organized by the James Madison Institute (JMI), Carroll retraced the steps that led to her election last November. She described her years serving in the Florida House, and how her early experience in the Navy helped prepare her to head the Florida agency in charge of veterans’ affairs. She also admitted that public speaking came easily to her – after she had practiced in front of a mirror! Carroll’s remarks highlighted the James Madison Institute’s annual “Women in Government” panel at Florida Girls’ State. This year’s forum took place at FSU’s Moore Auditorium and also featured Rep. Marti Coley of Blountstown, Florida Lottery Secretary Cindy O’Connell and Leon County Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson.         Rep. Coley advised the young women to recognize that being a mother can aid one’s experience rather than stifle opportunities. And Rep. Coley admitted that she, too, had never imagined running for public office – until the unfortunate death of her newly-elected husband in 2005 propelled her to run for his House seat.Secretary O’Connell noted that the diverse backgrounds of the JMI panelists – military, education, business, law – showed that there are many different routes to public service. She also shared her time-management techniques and how she weighs commitments in her personal and public lives.Similarly, Judge Richardson encouraged the students to invest time in something besides their future careers, offering her participation on the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra Board as an example. She said the key to a successful career is choosing something you enjoy doing every day.Each panelist advised the girls to take time for themselves each day, whether that is prayer, exercise or something else. Taking time for yourself, they said, helps you to be at your best for all the people in your life.Dana Edwards is a sophomore majoring in journalism and history at the University of Florida and an intern at The James Madison Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Tallahassee.