Resilient. Accountable. Transformative. Authentic. Engaged.

These are just a few of the words chosen by young state leaders to represent their intention for the coming year. Recipients of the CSG 20 Under 40 Leadership Award, they were recognized during the 2021 CSG National Conference for their commitment to leadership and service.

Read more about this year’s 20 Under 40 Leadership Award winners in the latest issue of Capitol Ideas magazine.

Tennessee state Rep. London Lamar, one of this year’s award recipients, described her boldest decision to date as a young legislator. The youngest Tennessee state representative currently in office, Lamar became pregnant during her freshman year and described facing a wave of sexist criticism for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

“There were people saying I was a bad example,” she said. “At the end of my pregnancy, my child didn’t make it. He died. That happened in front of the whole world. […] Instead of going to hide, like people told me I should have done, I decided to double down and own my story, what happened to me. What I did was create a personal maternal health strategy in order to pass legislation in Tennessee. […] That’s the boldest move I’ve ever taken. My greatest embarrassment became my greatest accomplishment.”  

The award not only recognizes excellence; it also builds community among the cohort of young leaders and the broader CSG family.

“When it’s all said and done, my favorite part of CSG, why I came back during my 12 years as a legislator, was because of that camaraderie; that sense of having a family,” CSG Executive Director/CEO David Adkins told the class of award winners. “I could be friends with someone absolutely the polar opposite of my political orientation, but I still had something to learn from them, and more importantly, I had the satisfaction of being friends with people who ‘got’ me.”

Adkins introduced Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, serving as the 2021 CSG National President, who shared her insights on leadership. She encouraged the 20 Under 40 class to think about their motivations for service and to leverage their individual leadership styles.

“You were chosen because you demonstrated your ability to work with colleagues across the aisle to create change,” she said. “But for many of you, that’s where your similarities end. You all come from diff backgrounds with different life experiences. […] Looking at this diverse group of awardees, it’s clear that it doesn’t matter where you’re from; whether you have an R or a D next to your name; whether you’re male or female, Northern or Southern. There are as many different leadership styles as there are leaders.”

Kelly shared that she honed her leadership style during her first job after high school, working at a summer camp. For four consecutive summers, she learned how to work with and respond to kids whose behavior was disruptive and even abusive. She learned the importance of knowing what she wanted to accomplish, not taking things personally, communicating well and often and not “taking the bait” when someone tried to provoke a negative response.

“Effective leadership isn’t about any one attribute or skill,” she said. “It requires us to reflect on inherent strengths and experience and how to use them for the greater good. All of you already have the tools to succeed now and in the future. They’ve been accumulating throughout your lives.

“The foundation for my leadership style was built long ago. It informs how I approach every compromise and achieve every bipartisan victory.  I encourage you to think about your unique attributes and build on those fundamentals to sharpen your leadership style. I am confident you will continue to achieve goals and be even more impactful in your communities, states and in our nation, and I thank you.”

Congratulations to this year’s 20 Under 40 Leadership Award recipients:

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