Arguably, one of the most politically influential women in the state, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby has been hard at work; serving the state of Alabama, and the members of her district for fifteen years.
Roby was born and raised in Montgomery Ala.. After receiving her Bachelors degree in music from New York University in 1998, she returned to the Yellowhammer state to pursue a law degree at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
Roby and her (now) husband Riley, were attending her younger brother’s graduation ceremony in Montgomery while she was in her third year at Samford, when the commencement speaker caught her attention.
“He challenged the graduates not to contribute to Alabama’s ‘brain drain,’ a long-existing problem in which young, talented Alabamians leave the state to follow their ambitions elsewhere. ‘Invest in Alabama,’ he said. ‘Chase your dreams, but whenever possible, contribute to building up your home and making it a better place,'” Roby told Lean IN.
“How many bright, talented individuals had we seen leave the state to pursue careers in so-called greener pastures? Montgomery and the State of Alabama had hard-to-fix problems. Would it make the difference if Riley and I, who care deeply about our home, put down roots?” Roby continued. “Ambition to follow one’s dreams is admirable, I thought, but so is realizing a responsibility to stay and help lift up a community. If we didn’t, who would?”
After finishing law school, Roby’s mind raced with possibilities on how she could serve those in her community; and her opportunity came just a few short years later when a local city council member announced her retirement.
She entered the race, and won the Montgomery City Council District 7 seat in 2003. A position she maintained until 2010, when she announced her run for U.S. Congressional District 2.
Winning the race in 2010, Roby has since served her constituents in the 2nd District with an enthusiasm that’s hard to match.
Roby is a former member of several congressional committees including the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies and currently serves as a member of the Judiciary committee, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, Subcommittee on Defense, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, and is the first representative from the 2nd Congressional District to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.
She also serves on many non-legislative committees including the Caucus for Womens Issues, Congressional Army Aviation Caucus, Congressional Pro-life Caucus and the Congressional Air Force Caucus.
Roby has been instrumental in bringing jobs, and investments to her district, including fighting to keep eight C-130 aircrafts at Montgomery’s Maxwell Air Force Base, and working in Congress to help the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker avoid crippling budget cuts that would have decimated training capabilities.
She has also been a proponent of Veterans Affairs and has worked tirelessly to address some of the misconduct at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS).
Roby is a women who has dedicated her life in-service to the state of Alabama. She works endlessly for those in her District and across the nation, and was kind enough to answer some of Alabama Today’s questions about her life, work and influences.
How have other women influenced your success?
I am blessed to have been surrounded by strong, driven women – my mom, my grandmothers, and others. Growing up, my dad always told me, “You can be anything you want to be.” I believed him, and I was fortunate to see this truth lived out by women in my life.
What shaped your desire to work in politics?
My husband Riley and I were sitting in the audience at my brother’s high school graduation, and the commencement speaker talked about the “brain drain.” He mentioned how important it is to go out into the world and do all the things you dream of doing, but then to return home to serve your community in whatever way you feel called. The challenge had a profound effect on both of us. Shortly thereafter I kicked off my first campaign in my hometown for the Montgomery City Council.
Later, when my husband and I were debating and praying about whether or not to run for Congress, we sought the advice of countless people, many of whom had done this job before or were currently serving. I had a four-year old and a twelve-week old, and when asked, most people told me I shouldn’t run for Congress – that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Before officially announcing my bid for Congress, I visited Washington, D.C., and had the opportunity to sit down with my now great friend and colleague, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). I told her my dilemma, and I told her that most people had encouraged me not to run due to the stresses associated with being young mom. I knew Cathy had recently had her first child, and she now has three beautiful children. She looked at me and said, “You can do this.” I took her advice. To this day, she inspires me, and I am grateful to call her a friend.
What has been your favorite area of service, and what is your favorite thing about that position?
I truly love this job, and because of that, I have several favorite areas of service. Perhaps both my biggest responsibility and greatest joy in Congress is being in a position to fight for proper treatment for our nation’s veterans. We owe the men and women who have put their lives on the line in service to this great country the absolute best care available, but far too often we fall short. I remain committed to advocating for commonsense solutions to make the Department of Veterans Affairs work for veterans.
Have you read any books that have shaped your perspective on life?
I am an avid reader. While I have read many books that I enjoy, the most important book that has shaped my perspective on life is the Bible. Scripture provides guidance, wisdom, and encouragement, and it is the ultimate roadmap for how to live.
What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue work in the U.S. government?
First of all, to any young women out there who pursue a career in politics or government, I will repeat to you what my dad always told me: You can be anything you want to be.
I would encourage any young women who want to pursue work in the government to simply keep their eyes wide open for unexpected ways to get involved. I say this because had someone told me when I was 26 years old that I’d soon win my first election for the City Council, I probably wouldn’t have believed them – but anything is possible if you keep your head up and eyes wide open for any and every opportunity to serve.
How do you spend your (rare) free time?
Of course, the vast majority of any free time I have is dedicated to my family. My children are both involved in sports, so we spend a lot of time on the ball field and tennis court. Outside that, I am happiest in my kitchen cooking for my family and friends.
For her insatiable desire to serve the people of the U.S., the state of Alabama, and Congressional District 2; for setting a strong example for women who would seek follow her footsteps; and for maintaining the exemplary standards of office, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is truly an Alabama Woman of Influence.