FARGO-Judy Lee, a longtime state senator and Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber board member, was named this year's Legacy Award winner at the Chamber's annual meeting here on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Each year, a nominating committee choses a longtime leader for its most prestigious award. Chamber officials said Lee was chosen due to her involvement in North Dakota's public policy.

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Lee served several terms on the Chamber's board of directors and has been active on many of its committees.

Lee, a Grafton, N.D., native who earned a degree from the University of North Dakota, worked for a decade in medical technology before becoming a realtor so that she would have a flexible schedule while raising her children in West Fargo.

"Every experience is practice for what you run into later on," Lee said Wednesday, "Maybe that is a good thing about one's age, you get lots of practice." In her 50s, Lee then decided to get involved in politics and was elected as a Republican senator in West Fargo's District 13 in 1994, after working on the West Fargo Planning and Zoning Commission for 12 years.

"I think the best leader is a servant leader," Lee said. "The people we represent or are affected by what we do are the ones we should be serving. This should not be a power trip for anyone. If you are a good leader, you'll recognize the strengths of the people around you to move forward."

Although not a fan of early morning meetings, Lee has served on many Chamber, legislative and local committees and boards. She became well-known for her work in human services involvement, having served on the Senate Human Services committee since the 1995 session and has been chair of the committee since 2001. She also serves as a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures Human Services committee.

"Just about anything that has been done in human services has Judy's stamp on it," said Eventide Senior Living Communities CEO John Riewer.

She has also worked for education funding in the state and West Fargo.

"She's tireless, enthusiastic, knowledgeable," retired West Fargo Superintendent David Flowers said. "She's a strong strong advocate for children, for families and the community that she loves."

In 2007, she was elected president pro tempore of the Senate. Earlier this year, FiscalNote ranked Lee as the fourth most productive state senator in the nation based on the amount of bills introduced and passed. "Life is full of small and big blessings and I have been blessed," Lee said. "It's such an honor to receive this award. I appreciate everybody in this room. Go get them."

Chamber officials noted at the annual meeting that it is celebrating its 20th year since Moorhead and Fargo chambers joined together and seven years since the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce joined the organization.

Newly appointed Chamber Board Chairman Mark Nesbit said the Chamber will continue to advocate for permanent flood protection, examine if the metro work force is adequate and continue to seek ways to bring quality daycare to the area for young families.