When Sharon Weston Broome moved from Chicago to her father’s home state of Louisiana after college, she didn’t think it would be a permanent stop. But how wrong she was. Today, Broome is a fixture in Baton Rouge politics. Since her election to the Louisiana Legislature in 1991, she has earned a reputation as a premier leader, becoming the first female speaker pro tem of the Louisiana House.
An advocate for children and families, Broome has worked hard to establish programs for neglected children. Early in her career, she attended a council on aging event hosted by a grandparent support group. Hearing about their experiences motivated her to seek legislation providing benefits to grandparents who had become legal caregivers for children. “In the backdrop of policy issues, it may not seem like a heavy hitter,” she says. “But it certainly has affected the lives of thousands of people.”
Along the way she’s also pushed tirelessly to rein in payday lending, fund arts education, improve social work practices and establish mental health courts. Facing term limits in the House, she successfully jumped in 2004 to the Senate, where she serves as president pro tem. What’s next for the first-ever African-American representative of her district? She plans to run for mayor of Baton Rouge in 2016.