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A Georgia Legislator Gives Insights Into Effective Leadership

Skye with Democratic Minority Leader Gloria Butler of the Georgia State Senate 

“I did not come in with the idea of being our Leader,” said Gloria Butler, Democratic Minority Leader of the Georgia State Senate. She simply wanted, she said, “to make a difference in our caucus.” A caucus is a group of representatives from a political party who work together to achieve common goals. 

I spoke with Butler on March 28, the final day of the State Senate’s legislative session. The lawmakers convene annually at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. This year, they discussed bills related to education, including students’ access to books, election guidelines, immigration, and other issues. 

Butler represents the 55th district, which includes parts of Atlanta and the surrounding areas. She is the first woman and first African American to serve as Minority Leader of the Georgia State Senate. Her involvement in the legislative body began in 1999, when she was sworn in as a State Senator. She was elected Democratic Minority Leader in 2021.

Butler worked hard to win her leadership role. “As I came into the Senate, I wanted us to be the best that we could be,” she said. “I volunteered in our caucus to do certain roles.”

Butler knew little about fundraising, but she saw a need for leadership. “There was no one in our caucus who was raising money, so I took that role,” Butler said. Despite her relative inexperience, she succeeded. “I raised more money for the caucus than anyone else,” she told me.

During her time in the Republican-controlled State Senate, Butler has served, respectively, as Minority Whip, Chair, and Minority Leader. A Whip keeps track of the party’s votes on upcoming legislation and works with members to maintain unity. Butler has also served on several of the State Senate’s committees, including Ethics, Health and Human Services, and Public Safety.



Butler, who is 82, plans to retire at the end of the year. She hopes that others will continue the work she began. 

On the last day of the legislative session, Butler addressed her fellow State Senators. “We have the power to make this state a better place,” she said. “We work together to fix problems.”

Butler also spoke about her decision to retire. “This decision did not happen overnight,” she said. “You don’t stay longer than you should. Get your work done, then be ready to go when it is time to leave. I am ready to go, and I am leaving on my own terms.”

When asked her advice for young people interested in a public service career, Butler emphasized the importance of addressing the community’s needs. “Focus on the people, because that’s who you’re here to serve,” she said. “Do the job, and everything else will just fall in place. You’re here to serve, and I love serving.” 


Photo courtesy of the author