M. Jodi Rell (1946-)
Born on June 16, 1946, M. Jodi Rell became the ninth female governor in the United States on July 1, 2004, after Governor John Rowland was forced to step down due to corruption charges. She is Connecticut's second female governor and is also the first female Republican Governor of Connecticut.
Prior to her Governorship, Rell had 20 years of experience in public service. She grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and later attended Dominion University for two years before dropping out in 1967 to marry Navy Pilot Lou Rell. They had two children and, after living in Parsippany, New Jersey, eventually settled in Brookfield, Connecticut. Although Rell was a homemaker, she was active in several local civic associations such as Meals on Wheels and the Brookfield Republican Women's Club.
Rell's work in civic associations led her to run for Connecticut’s State Legislature in 1984. She won the seat as Connecticut’s State Representative for the 107th District, and was re-elected four times before becoming Rowland's lieutenant governor in 1994. Following her ascension to the governorship in 2004, she made ethics in politics a priority. She signed legislation which created a new Ethics Commission and reformed campaign finance in the state. She is credited with "stabilizing the state," after the turmoil of Rowland’s corrupt administration, which won her the admiration and trust of Connecticut voters. As a result of her efforts, she was awarded the Clean Elections M.V.P. Award by Common Cause, Public Campaign, and Democracy Matters.
Rell has become known for her pragmatic leadership and fiscally conservative approach to government. She has pushed to make Connecticut more attractive to businesses, and has invested in childcare and transportation. In 2007, she enacted the Charter Oak Health Plan intended to bring affordable healthcare to uninsured adults aged 19 to 64. She also passed legislation that allowed same sex couples to enter into civil unions. Concerns for the environment and dependence on foreign oil have led her to sponsor the One Thing program to promote energy conservation.
In 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a mastectomy, she became an advocate for fighting the disease. As a result, she received the Mary Waterman Award for her "outstanding individual achievement in the search for a cure for breast cancer," as well as the 2005 CURE Award for Excellence "for significant contribution or achievement in Connecticut bioscience."
In 2006, Rell was successfully re-elected for a second term as Connecticut’s governor. In 2008 she received the Dr. Nathan Douglas award from the American Medical Association and is noted for her commitment to promoting stem-cell research. In 2009, she announced that she would not seek reelection.
Image credit: State of Connecticut.