This month, we are honored to introduce our 2017 Power of the Purse First Lady’s Woman in Public Service, Betty Clark Dickey.

We asked Betty a few questions about what it means to be the 2017 First Lady’s Woman in Public Service:

WFA: How do you define Public Service?

Betty: Public service is, generally, what a government gives to, or does for, its people. Spiritually, it is action that gives meaning and purpose to one’s beliefs. Personally, my areas of public service have been: in education as a second grade teacher at Watson Chapel and English teacher at Pine Bluff High School; as an Adjunct Professor at UALR Bowen School of Law, and as NPACE Professor on a Navy Destroyer, the McFaul, in the Middle East. I have served judicially and legislatively: as a City Attorney in Pine Bluff and Redfield; in regulatory agencies as Counsel for the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and as Commissioner at the Public Service Commission; as the Governor’s Chief Counsel; and, as the Chief Justice and Associate Justice at the Arkansas Supreme Court.

WFA: How do you see the role of women in public service as a vital part of prosperity for all Arkansans?

Betty: The role of women in public service has broadened from teaching, nursing or secretarial jobs to a broad spectrum of opportunities in every field, and is a vital part of prosperity in Arkansas since women comprise about 50% of the work force potential. As primary teachers and caretakers of children, women’s influence in health and education multiplies exponentially, inuring to the benefit of Arkansas for prosperity, but also in more esoteric ways such as better physical and mental health.

WFA: As the first woman in Arkansas to be elected Prosecuting Attorney, the first woman to serve as a Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, and the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, how do you view these “firsts” as an opportunity to promote women and girls so they can reach their full potential?

Betty: When I ran for office, or was appointed to the positions, I did not know they were “firsts” or I would have been more intimidated. And I did not want to be called a “role model,” knowing well my many limitations. I came to realize, and embrace the fact that, whether I wanted it or not, I was a role model, first for my daughters, later for others, the disenfranchised, those who lacked self-esteem, and older women who saw that, if I could start law school at age forty-two, it wasn’t too late for them to realize their dreams. The burden of “not letting the wheels fall off” as predicted when they let a woman become Prosecuting Attorney, and the challenges of trying to “not fail” because I knew some women and girls penned their hopes on whether I did, was highly motivating.

The 2017 Power of the Purse luncheon will be held Tuesday, October 3rd from 11:30-1:00 at the Downtown Little Rock Marriott.

To see Betty’s full bio, learn more about Power of the Purse, or to purchase tables and tickets, please
visit http://womensfoundationarkansas.org/events/potp/

Anna Beth Gorman is the executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.

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