Career change

Chevy Chaser

By Rep. Susan Westrom

How timely for me to be able to write about a topic that I really enjoy — real estate!  Many of you may remember that I began my legislative career after being an advocate for a nonprofit child care agency in Frankfort and Washington.  My professional experience made my transition into politics as easy as walking, because I had traversed the Capitol hallways for many years and felt right at home.  But, as luck would have it, my accountant informed me last year that working for a nonprofit agency was as non-profitable as being a state representative, and that I would never be able to retire at the rate I was going.  It was time for a career change.

The public seldom considers what legislators do in their professional life to provide for their families.  Some, of course, are retired or independently well off, some have “married well,” and some work for companies that appreciate having an eye and ear in Frankfort.  The rest of us have to figure out how to survive professionally and financially while serving in public office.  Many of my constituents assume that we make enough money as legislators to survive. However, our base salary does not cover expenses for a needed local office in our home town, in order to remain in contact with constituents during the interim season from April through December.  We pay for our own continuing education beyond two meetings a year, our supplies and office equipment, travel, postage, and stationery above a limit of $175 — per year!

So, you may wonder, just exactly what do the 100 members of the House of Representatives currently do professionally?  Nine are retired and have a wonderful advantage of extra spare time.  Six are farmers, five are in the education field, and eight are in the banking and insurance industry.  We have two auctioneers, two people in sales, four real estate agents, and four who are unemployed.  We have one radio broadcaster, an electrician, a minister, a registered nurse, a homemaker, a factory worker, a chiropractor, a public relations specialist, a CPA, a tax accountant, and a meat-cutter at Kroger.

Thirty legislators are involved in some type of independent business, and they likely have partners and family members available to help keep the doors open during their absence.  And, not surprisingly, nineteen are attorneys.

You may wonder how I solved my getting to retirement dilemma.  My daughter, Grace, graduated from Georgetown College in May 2005, and the two of us decided to become licensed real estate agents and work as a team.  We attended school and studied for the exam together during the summer and became agents for Keller Williams in October 2005.  This is a broad career opportunity and was a logical professional change for me.  I found the transition to be an easy one, since real estate requires many of the same skills necessary for a productive legislator.

Real Estate agents are problem-solvers who must be able to communicate and listen well.  They need a background in finances, need to know how to do research, as well as know marketing and cost-analysis, have broad negotiating skills, and know how to deal with the public.  I know this area of Lexington like the back of my hand and I am acquainted with so many of your neighbors. I understand that ethics in this profession are as important as ethics are in being a legislator.  I currently serve on the Banking and Insurance Committee, as well as the Licensing and Occupations Committee, so I already know the policy side of this profession.  I have found that my social work background and mediator experience have been invaluable tools when assisting families move “one step closer to home,” which is my real estate motto.  Believe it or not, during our first five months my daughter and I sold over $1 million in real estate and have met some of the most incredible people.

There are few things that have a greater impact on a family than the purchase of a home.  I know that I have made a great career choice simply because when I work it is like being on vacation.  Better yet, by having autonomy in my professional life, I am better able to serve the people of the 79th District in Frankfort.

If you need to reach me, please feel free to call my Lexington office at 859-266-7581, in Frankfort at 502-564-8100, Ext. 826, or e-mail me at [email protected].  You may view my updated website at  It is an honor serving you in Frankfort.