Becky Lockhart cracked Utah’s glass ceiling and left too soon
January 20, 2015
The Utah legislature lost a lioness this week. Former Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart (R-Provo) succumbed Saturday to a rare and aggressive brain disease. She was just 46 years old and, up until the illness, was a major force in local politics.
She will forever be remembered as Utah’s first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, shattering the glass ceiling of a body known for its nearly all-white, all-male makeup.
She will also be remembered for her outspoken, predominantly conservative, positions. Not one to mince words, shortly after ascending to the top spot in the House, Lockhart took aim at Utah’s popular governor calling him an "inaction figure."
Lockhart staked out a political camp well to the right of center but was careful to avoid the strident tone of the Eagle Forum and others from the so-called Tea Party. She was vehemently opposed to Gov. Herbert’s attempts to compromise on ‘Obamacare,’ fiercely championed state’s rights over federal entitlements and often found herself embroiled in controversial issues (including the failed attempt to limit access to government records). However, her commitment to the public process earned respect on both sides of the political aisle.
She jumped into politics in 1997, at a time when there were even fewer women on the ballot, ultimately winning Provo’s 64th District seat in 1998 and over the next 16 years she consistently toppled her male challengers.
2010 she was ready to make another leap running for speaker. Women around the state held their breath. Was it possible? Would Utah’s notoriously male Legislature elect a woman? To their credit, they did. In leadership sessions Lockhart may have been the only woman in the room but she was no shrinking violet.
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When, in 2014, she declined to run for another term, it was widely assumed that Lockhart, still at the top of her political game, was planning an ambitious career move, perhaps including a run for governor. No one could have anticipated that, less than a year later, her strong, uniquely independent voice would be gone.
This session, the debates will be muted and many, in their search for common ground and solutions to tough issues, will be asking, "What would Becky do?"
A public memorial service honoring Lockhart will be held tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City.