Kay Ivey made history in 2002 when she became the first Republican elected state treasurer since Reconstruction.
She made history again Monday when she became the second woman to hold the office of governor in Alabama. Ivey succeeded Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned from the office amid threats of impeachment and looming criminal charges tied to his relationship with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Following her swearing in by Acting Alabama Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, Ivey in a brief speech noted the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her latest role.
“Today is both a dark day in Alabama, but yet also it’s one of opportunity. I ask for your help and patience as we together steady the ship of state and improve Alabama’s image,” she said.
Ivey grew up in Camden, the county seat Wilcox County, where her family had a cattle farm. She graduated from Auburn University in 1967 and later worked as a high school teacher and a bank officer, according to her official biography.
She served as reading clerk in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1980 to 1982 and assistant director of the Alabama Development Office from 1982 to 1985. From 1985 to 1998, she served as director of governmental affairs for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, according to Vote Smart.
In 2002, she won the race for state treasurer and was re-elected in 2006. During that time, she was widely criticized for her management of PACT, the state’s prepaid college tuition program, which collapsed amid an economic downturn.
But she rebounded and in 2010, she challenged then-Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. and won, making her the first Republican woman to hold the office in the state’s history. She made history again in 2014, becoming the first Republican to win re-election as lieutenant governor.
Ivey has described herself as a proud conservative, serving Mitt Romney’s Alabama campaign chairwoman in the 2008 presidential race and endorsing Jeb Bush for president in 2015.
In a 2016 interview with The Plainsman, Auburn University’s student newspaper, Ivey addressed the Bentley scandal.
“We’re all very disappointed in the governor’s activities and actions. They speak for themselves,” she told The Plainsman. “It saddens me that the highest office in the land is receiving such low marks right now.”
During her speech Monday, Ivey said she “never desired and certainly never expected” to be governor and pledged no disruption in state functions.
“I pledge to each of you that I will do my very best. The Ivey administration will be open, it will be transparent and it will be honest,” she said to applause from the crowd gathered in the Senate Chambers of the old capitol building.
Ivey is a member of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, the Montgomery Rotary Club and the board of directors of the Montgomery YMCA. She is also the first Girls State alumnus to be elected to an Alabama constitutional office.