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Making History at the Highest Levels Of Rhode Island State Government

By: Peter Wells
Dated: Saturday, 02/10/2007

Elizabeth H. Roberts made history in the State of Rhode Island on January 2, 2007, when she was inaugurated as the States' 68th Lieutenant Governor. Lt. Governor Roberts is no stranger to the RI State House, as she served five terms in the Rhode Island State Senate, were Roberts gained recognition for being an advocate for affordable healthcare, economic development, job growth, cleaner air and water, stronger schools and the need to increase attention to the States' disaster preparedness.
Lt. Governor Roberts was in fact recognized by Common Cause, Rhode Island a well known and respected reform organization, as one of the top two senators in Rhode Island in 2006, giving her the second highest rating in the General Assembly at 91% and an "A" for her reform efforts during the legislative session.
The Office of Lt. Governor has certain duties by Statute hence:
Roberts will serve as the chairwoman of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, the Small Business Advocacy Council, and the Emergency Management Advisory Council.
As chairperson of the Small Business Advocacy Council, Roberts will continue her work on addressing the issues facing small businesses across the state. Roberts has been a uniting force in making insurance more affordable for small businesses by working closely with medical professionals, hospital administrators, insurers, business owners and consumers to find creative solutions. In 2005, she helped create the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner to oversee insurance companies and healthcare costs and, in 2006, she sponsored legislation to create a public/private partnership to reduce the bur-den of healthcare costs on small businesses.
Lieutenant Governor Roberts plans to continue the lieutenant governor's office tradition of supporting our men and women of the Armed Forces with programs like Operation Holiday Cheer, the Military Family Relief Fund, and the Garden of Heroes, a memorial honoring all Rhode Island service members who have lost their lives in the line of service since September 11, 2001.
Roberts graduated from Brown University in 1978 and earned an MBA in healthcare management from Boston University. Be-fore going to the Senate, Roberts
worked as a business strategy consultant, policy analyst, and healthcare manager. She is married to Thomas Roberts and they have two daughters, Kathleen and Nora. The Roberts have been residents of Cranston's Edgewood section for more than 20 years.
The Providence American had the pleasure to sit with the Lt. Governor and inquire as to her first days in Office and what issues she might be looking at as some of her priority areas going forward.
PA: How does it feel to be the first Women to be elected to the Office of Lt. Governor and what do you think of that accomplishment?
LT.Gov: Well of course I feel great about the election and very thankful to all of those Rhode Islanders who sup-ported my candidacy and voted for me, however let me say that it was long overdue. I believe that government should look like its constituency.
PA: Was campaigning for this office any different for a women than a man, and why?
LT.Gov: Yes it was. I believe that being a woman during this years campaign was an asset, especially as I traveled the state and had conversations with female voters, women to women so to speak. I think that is an example of how campaigning may be a little different for women running for statewide offices.
PA: You have long been known as an advocate for affordable health care for all Rhode Islanders, what can we expect from your office on this key front?
LT.Gov: I will be working toward some sort of afford-able health insurance or like universal coverage of some sort. We need to insure that coverage is made available to all Rhode Islanders.
PA: Would you advocate for a forced insurance program like the State of Massachusetts just enacted?
Lt. Gov: I will advocate to insure that coverage is avail-able in some form; however, I do not know enough about the Massachusetts program to compare or comment. I am not sure about a forced program, but this office will work very hard on the health insurance front to improve the affordability of health care in the State.
PA: As an advocate for Small Businesses are there any special areas of concern or reforms that you are looking at?
Lt.Gov: Well as we already referenced the need for affordable health care systems is a major issue for small businesses. We also have a challenge in the area of work force development. This is a small and large business is-sue because without a strong trained work force it is difficult to convince new business to come to Rhode Island. To often we miss the balance that is necessary to make our system of government work best. Often in government we change an entire system to correct or amend an element of the system, and we miss that balance between Public Safety and Legislation; it's truly a difficult challenge.
PA: You mentioned balance and I have a question regarding balance. As an example, I have watched news cover-age of the State's Emergency Management Officials and have attended a meeting or presentation here and there on the issue of Rhode Islands' Emergency Management Preparedness, and I do not see people of color at the table. I do not see people of Asian, African, Latino or Caribbean extraction who really need to be involved in the development of State Evacuation Plans and other emergencies such as the recent public health emergency in Warwick, as language and individuals response to emergencies may be very different from what many American citizens may consider to be the norm; how will you address this issue?
Lt.Gov: Well as mentioned earlier by statute the Office of Lt. Governor has a role on the Advisory Council for Emergency Management and to that end I will look very closely at the States' plan with a focus on its' functionality for all residents of the State.
PA: Will that include the representation of people of color on the Council?
Lt. Gov: Of course we will look at that issue as well to ensure that we do not have a situation in Rhode Island as we saw in New Orleans.
PA: Are there any other issues you are looking at administratively or legislatively that you care to share at this time?
Lt. Gov: Well I believe on the Economic development front we have a perfect opportunity in Rhode Island to take advantage of the growing development of jobs in the areas of research and banking to name a few. Pharmaceutical research is high on my agenda to attract more economic development to the state; but there are so many important issues for us to work with the legislature on for the good of Rhode Island citizens.
PA: Lt. Governor is there any closing comments you would like to give our readership?
Lt. Gov: Well I invite your readership to avail themselves of my open door policy and to invite this office to community activities so that we can stay in touch with the communities of Rhode Island and to work together to solve those problems we can.
PA: Thank you so much Lt. Governor Roberts for this interview so early in office. We truly do appreciate it and on behalf of The Providence American readership-congratulations.