Local is one of only eight women senators
On her very first day as a Mississippi senator, Sally Doty from Brookhaven drew inspiration from the state capitol building. The imposing 180-foot-tall and 402-feet-wide Beaux Arts style white structure is in the heart of downtown Jackson. Traditional Corinthian columns and an intricate trim with relief sculptures surround the capital. A dome crowns the building that is topped with an 8-foot tall, 15-foot wide soaring golden eagle.
“The beautiful building impressed upon me the importance of what I was doing,” said Doty. She had made it.
Doty was elected in 2011 and represents District 39, which includes Lincoln and Lawrence counties, as well as some portions of Simpson County. She has now completed three sessions in the Mississippi Legislature. Recently, she was chosen as a “Hero” by the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention for her work this past legislative session on domestic violence issues. She was also recently honored as “Legislator of the Year” by the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Association for her work with law enforcement.
“I was tired of Mississippi always being last and always getting that bad reputation,” said Doty. “I wanted to be part of making changes in the state.”
Doty is one of eight women serving in the Mississippi Senate. Only 17.2 percent of the entire legislature is female. These numbers did not deter Doty.
“Being women in the senate means people are always watching us,” said Doty. “I feel that we are listened to and are respected because we can bring a different perspective to our colleagues. Everyone there has to prove themselves and build relationships, male or female.”
Doty has been part of many legislative initiatives, including bills that have affected economic development, education, religious freedom, public safety and other areas. She is most proud of her recent success in the last session to address teen pregnancy in Mississippi.
“We are beginning the discussions in universities and community colleges across the state,” said Doty. “It’s been really rewarding to see it all take shape.”
Senate bill 2563, asks community colleges and four-year universities to develop a plan that will address pregnancies in women ages 18 and 19, which account for 70 percent of the population of teenage pregnancies.
Even though she has had many successes, they are sometimes overshadowed by last-minute obstacles. Senators sometime get hung up by last-minute changes, such as shooting down a texting and driving bill that Doty had shepherded through the legislative process. The bill was killed by a procedural vote by the House of Reps in the last five minutes of the session.
Doty said the hardest part of her job is having to deal with amendments offered on the floor purely for political purposes. For example: the senate may have discussed the budget extensively and appears ready to pass it, but at the last minute, someone asks for more money to be allocated to education; a cause that, like most people, Doty supports.
The problem with this type of last-minute action is that money would have to be taken from another source. Doty said such votes are difficult because it is hard to shoot down something like that because you would later be represented as a senator who is anti-educational funding.
Doty added that no matter what legislation she is working on, she is always thinking of home. “It always feels great to be able to help the local community when they need it.”
Before running for senator, Doty practiced law in Brookhaven with Bob Allen for eight years but interrupted her legal career to care for her three children and elderly parents.
“When I decided to run for senate, I sat down and discussed with my kids exactly what is involved in being a senator,” said Doty. She added that at that time her children were older and more self-sufficient, so they were very supportive of her campaign. “We keep in touch when I’m in session. Sometimes I make it a rule that they have to call me everyday at 3:30 when school is out so I can hear about their day. We text and talk numerous times a day on the days I need to stay in Jackson.”
When in session, Doty’s days are full. From 8:30 a.m. till 8:30 p.m., she is discussing policies, reviewing bills and meeting with politicians and organizations. She is in a suit and heels for 12 hours a day. In the off-season she travels around the state touring facilities, attending national conferences and meets with constituents, local elected officials and businesses.
“I wish my grandparents were alive to see me now. I think they would be really proud,” said Doty. She explained that her grandparents came from humble means. “It really shows what you can do with a great family, some amazing opportunities and a lot of hard work.”
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