Representative Susan Westrom grew up in Iowa with a passion for horses. She loved everything from the smell of a horse to the sweet softness and expression from the whiskery muzzle. It never occurred to her that, one day, Kentucky would be her home and she would become a public servant doing all she could to draw attention to an industry celebrated worldwide.
Rep. Westrom spent eight years in Eastern Kentucky in one of the poorest counties in the country, where children often faced unimaginable hardships and families often relied on government assistance to survive. She never dreamed that her family would change, and she would begin a new life as a single mother with little higher education and many challenges. Lexington became her new home, and the new focus became providing for a family and furthering her education.
Her next Kentucky journey became a test of her brain and courage as she entered Lexington Community College at the age of 32, the oldest person in every class she attended. The most important lesson she learned that freshman year was that she did have a brain, and she later transferred to UK with full academic scholarships through Graduate School while working two jobs.
As a junior in college, Rep. Westrom established a non-profit called ACES (Association for Children for the Enforcement of Support) to assist parents trying to navigate the child support system, which necessitated her lobbying on behalf of children in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
In her senior year, she became a Certified Mediator for the Mediation Center in Lexington while concluding her graduate degree in Social Work. Soon, with a Master’s degree in her hand, Rep. Westrom began a new job as Director of Advocacy and Marketing for Buckhorn Children’s Home where her lobbying experience became invaluable for children in out-of-home placement.
In 1998, Rep. Westrom received a surprise phone call requesting that she run for State Representative in the 79th District seat then held by a two-term Republican who had higher aspirations. Although she had never even volunteered in a political campaign in her life, she accepted the challenge and won in one of those stunning races seldom seen in Kentucky.
She took office in 1999 as one of ten women in the 100-member Kentucky House of Representatives.
Rep. Westrom was not shy about tackling tough issues, first by tackling human trafficking in Kentucky, child abuse from the pulpit, and passing legislation to (finally) remove status offenders (children under 18 years of age with non-criminal offenses) from adult jails.
She also worked on college dormitory safety, and passed legislation to allow delivery of primary care in low income area schools to enable children to have access to onsite health care. Her work with medical specialists led to an expansion of newborn testing for diagnoses such as PKU.
As years passed, Rep. Westrom continued to demonstrate her commitment to public health and children. She was the force behind the creation of the Kentucky Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel assigned to review deaths and injuries of abused children in hope of stopping the cycle of child abuse. She also filed the controversial and wildly supported Smoke Free Kentucky legislation four straight years.
Although a majority of Kentuckians supported Rep. Westrom’s Smoke Free Kentucky legislation, members of the House and Senate leadership did not press final passage of the bills. But Rep. Westrom’s work did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Her smoke-free efforts were recognized nationally at a White House press conference celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning “cigarettes cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema” on tobacco packaging.
The continuation of her years of service can be found here.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
United Steel Workers
Kentucky Eye Physicians
Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council
Kentucky Social Workers
Kentucky State UAW
Housing Industry of Kentucky
Kentucky Soybean PAC
Kentucky Automobile Industry
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers
Kentucky Professional Firefighters
Lexington Professional Firefighters
KY State UAW
KY State Building and Construction Trades
Better Schools KY
General Drivers Local 89, LV, KY
CAP Auto Workers LV
KY Educators Political Action Committee
KY Bourbon PAC
Johnson & Johnson
Better Schools for Kentucky
KY Soybean Industry
Women’s Network Kentucky
KY Highway Industries
International Assoc of Bridge Iron Workers