When Becky Skillmans role as lieutenant governor of Indiana ends at the beginning of next year, shes not quite sure what will happen. For years, she has jumped from one government job to the next: She was an elected official in Lawrence County for 16 years and an Indiana senator for 12 years, starting in 1992.
And she has no idea whats next: If I knew, Id tell you, she says.
If the past is any indication, shell be involved in agriculture or women in business.
Originally from Bedford, a small rural town in southern Indiana, Skillman had the first seeds of politics planted the summer before her senior year of high school, an event for Hoosier girls, when she and 800 girls from around the state received a crash course on politics and government.
I felt very much at home there, she says, and I knew I wanted to continue some level of involvement (in those areas) throughout my life.
As early as 10, Skillman was learning traits in 4-H that would benefit her later in life. Through categories such as foods, clothing, photography, forestry and soil conservation, Skillman had to practice skills such as public speaking and making presentations. Granted, the subject matter was slightly different, more sewing skills and proper care of clothing and less advancing women in business and agribusiness seminars. But those early experiences shaped her, Skillman says.
I learned lessons of hard work, discipline and self-control, compassion, generosity and thoughtfulness, Skillman wrote in a piece for news outlets across the state.
Sense of humor
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson has known Skillman since 1989, and their political careers have somewhat mirrored each others: They served as county clerks and legislators together, and today, they serve as statewide elected officials together.
Lawson calls Skillman friendly and generous.
And I think what a lot of people dont know about Becky is shes got a great sense of humor, she says. Shes a funny person.
Her sense of humor has helped her encourage compromise when dealing with strong personalities. Lawson remembers once when she was chairing the county clerks legislative committee, Skillman carried a partisan bill that allowed for absentee ballots to be counted in a central location on Election Night. The late state Sen. Robert Hellman started to question Skillman.
He was a very articulate person, Lawson says, and most people would have been flustered by that, but Becky held her own.
By the time Skillman left the podium, she had Hellman laughing.
She just had a way with answering somebody and, not really putting them in their place, but letting them know she knew what she was talking about, Lawson says.
This summer, Skillman, 61, was in Fort Wayne to speak at the Advancing Women in Business seminar, something Skillman started six years ago.
I thought it was important to connect business women with the people and the resources to take their business to the next level or to provide a forum for women who were considering starting a business, she says.
The series continues to grow in popularity. This summer, the seminar took place in four cities: Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Bloomington and Evansville. The seminars bring in successful female entrepreneurs to share their stories and encourage other businesswomen.
Skillman also hosts the lieutenant governors leadership luncheon for Girl Scouts. The most recent luncheon raised $174,000, and every dollar went to the girls organization. She spoke at the luncheon to recognize successful women who started out as Girl Scouts.
Skillman herself was never member of the troop, but she did work with the organization during her time as an Indiana senator.
We used to set up tables and chairs in freezing temperatures to sell cookies with the girls in my old Senate district, she says.
Skillman is the founder of the Hoosier Agribusiness and Science Academy, which focuses on urban students, exposing them to a variety of professions available in the agricultural industry.
One of the best results of the academy is seeing some first-generation college students.
She tells of a young woman who wrote to say she thought her future would be cleaning hotel rooms with her mother, and I wanted you to know I have been accepted into Indiana University this fall, Skillman says, quoting the letter.
Talk about broadening their horizons, she says. And its not that we expect them all to study agriculture. Its just that they have a greater thirst for knowledge, and they discover their own interests and passions along the way.
Despite her busy schedule, Skillman recently found the time to go back to school: In 2010, she received her associate degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Lawson says how much she respected the time and effort Skillman put into getting her degree.
I thought it was awesome, she says. Becky and I both have a unique position in that neither one of us had gotten our college degrees. I have not done that myself. One of these days, maybe I will. I know that both of us have worked especially hard to make sure it didnt make a difference in our abilities and our jobs. I respect her very much and think she did the right thing for her.