Alabama governor offers looks at personal side

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Fifty-four years after being a high school delegate to Boys State, Gov. Robert Bentley went to Girls State and offered a rare personal glimpse at his motivations, his likes and his dislikes.

The 71-year-old governor tossed aside his prepared remarks when the high school leaders met in Montgomery and let them ask him anything they wanted.

BEST PART OF JOB: Bentley said the best part of being a physician in Tuscaloosa and now governor of the state is meeting people and helping them solve problems. “I love what I do. I love solving problems.”

WORST PART OF JOB: Bentley said he doesn’t like having security with him all the time. “The hardest part is you totally 100 percent lose your privacy. There is no privacy any more. I can’t drive. I can’t go to Wal-Mart by myself. I can’t go to Lowe’s.”

WORK HOURS: “It’s a very time-consuming job. I usually get to work a little after 7 and I get home between 6 and 7 every night, and then I’m on the phone when I’m at home. So there is so much I have to do. … But it’s fine. I love what I’m doing.”

LEGACY: “I want people to say he was a good governor, and he served the people and loved the people.”

BACKGROUND: Bentley recounted growing up poor in Shelby County. “I’m sure I’m the only governor in the United States that grew up the first part of his life without electricity and without any indoor facilities in your house. And to go from poverty like I did with parents who were uneducated, but for them to love me and encourage education, and for me to become a physician and then to become governor, I’ve had a lot of blessings.”

BOYS STATE: Bentley recounted being a delegate to Boys State in 1960, but said he didn’t run for any public office, such as governor. He said public service didn’t interest him until late in his career. “The best people are those who have had real jobs out in the real world and have dealt with real problems. And then after a period of time, they then decided that they want to give back to the state or their city. … They make the best public servants.”

CHANGING CAREERS: Bentley said he started in the engineering program at the University of Alabama with the goal of being an aeronautical engineer but changed directions. “In my life I always pray about things that I want God to help me make the correct decisions on. I remember the specific time and place I did that, and I had this feeling I should go into medicine.”

PERSONAL MOTIVATION: “Whatever I’ve done, I’ve always wanted to be number one and to be the best. But it’s not for me. I believe you do that to glorify the one who put you here.”

FAILURE: Bentley recounted losing by a few votes in his race for the state Senate in 1998, but then coming back four years later and winning a state House office. “We had actually won the race and we knew we had. We won it by about 300 votes, but we had it stolen from us. When something like that happens to you, what do you do? Well, you just go on with life, and that’s what we did. I still wanted to do public service, and so I served in the House of Representatives.”

ADVICE FOR COLLEGE: Bentley told the girls to always try to do their best, but to keep their lives in balance. “You should enjoy school and enjoy your friends. I don’t want to say this wrong. You have to make good grades, but don’t stress out about it so much that it just destroys you. You can put so much pressure on yourself or other people can put pressure on you that it hurts, and it hurts you. Life is too short to not enjoy it and not enjoy your friends.”

GRADES: “You should study hard, but if you make a B instead of an A, it’s no big deal.”

After the presentation Thursday, reporters asked Bentley if he gave his four sons the same advice he gave the girls.

He laughed and said, “In fact, I gave my children that, and they made some B’s and less.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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