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Patsy Riley to focus on youths

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — First lady Patsy Riley, who used her husband’s first term to beautify and promote the state, plans to focus on children in a second term, including protecting them from abuse and unhealthy food.

Riley outlined her goals Saturday at her first lady’s luncheon, one of several weekend events leading up to Monday’s inauguration.

“I hope I’ll be remembered as she got to it, she got with it, and she got through it,” Riley told 270 women in attendance.

During the past four years, Riley has promoted Alabama tourist attractions, particularly its public gardens and food; dressed up the Capitol grounds with hundreds of donated shrubs and 4,000 bulbs; fixed up the Governor’s Mansion and surrounding grounds; and started the restoration of the Hill House next door to the mansion for use in economic development and tourism programs.

For the second term, Riley said she has formed a task force that will recommend new
laws to protect children from abuse.

“We’ve got laws on the books that are protecting a dog more than they protect little children. That is wrong,” she said to loud applause.

Riley said her work won’t end with the task force making recommendations.

She will work with the Legislature to get laws passed.

“If it’s going to be changed, it’s going to take a woman
getting in there to do it,” she said.

Riley said she is also working with The University of Alabama to create a toll-free hot line that parents can call for help when they are stressed out and getting close to the breaking point.

“Children and toddlers, they are stressful. It is just a part of raising them. None of that has ever changed over hundreds and thousands of years,” Riley said.

The phone line, known as the Parents Assistance Line, should be operational later this year, she said.

Riley said she is working on a program called “HEAL: Healthy Eating Active Lives” that will promote more healthy food for children to prevent problems later with heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

“We are not doing our children a favor by allowing our children to live, to survive, grow and develop off of junk food and fast food,” said Riley, a mother of four and grandmother of six.

Riley credited her family with helping shape her life as first lady, and to demonstrate it, she wore 100-year-old white gloves that belonged to her grandmother, Patsy Adams of Ashland, and a ruby and diamond ring that belonged to her deceased daughter, Jenice Riley.

Among those attending the luncheon was former first lady Jamelle Folsom, the widow of two-term Gov. James E. “Big Jim” Folsom and the mother of former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr.

She said Riley was “doing a real good job” and had impressed her early in the first term by returning the portraits of Alabama’s first ladies to the front parlor at the Governor’s Mansion.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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