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Becky Lockhart and I didn't exactly get off on the right foot.

I encountered her at a leadership forum at Utah Valley University in 2006. All I knew about her at the time was that she was one of a handful of conservative Utah County women who seemed to me to be linked as one.

I eventually would see Lockhart, who died Saturday from a rare brain disease after completing her second term as Utah House speaker, soar high above what I called the Utah County Republican Way.

I had been asked to take part in a media panel during the daylong conference for political and business leaders.

The panel's dialogue quickly devolved into an argument from the audience about media bias. As the lone panelist not from Utah County, I was the only one dumb enough to take the crowd on. It was about 300 to one.

Lockhart, standing in the back, accused me of not calling her when I did a story about a bill she ran. I had no idea what she was talking about and, for a few years, there was a mutual distrust between us. She thought I was out to get her; I thought she was not forthcoming.

But as she returned my calls more regularly, and her quotes became more prominent in my columns, the relationship warmed. I began to see someone more than a partisan politician.

When Lockhart challenged then-Speaker David Clark for the top House post in 2010, I at first saw it as a power move by an ambitious politician, especially when she led a meeting at Mimi's Cafe to discuss the palace coup.

But I learned her motives were more about her outrage at the behavior of the then-House majority leader, who had admitted to an inappropriate hot-tub encounter years before with a teenage girl and the careless way the admission was handled by the speaker.

Her indignation at unacceptable deportment by fellow Republican leaders would manifest itself again when, as Utah's first female House speaker, she gave the go-ahead for a House investigation of alleged wrongdoing that eventually would topple the Republican Utah attorney general.

After she took up the speaker's gavel in the 2011 session, I learned that she gave as much attention and respect to the views and proposed bills from the first-timers in the Republican House Caucus as she did to the veterans. That was unusual. Even more startling, the few House Democrats told me she gave them as much deference as she gave her fellow Republicans.

She also was no toady to the conservative bloc that controls Utah County GOP politics. She earned the ire of that faction when she backed a bill that would allow guest-worker permits for undocumented immigrants.

After a public outcry to the Legislature's attempt to gut Utah's open-records law, she agreed to join then-Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, for a panel discussion about the fiasco before the Salt Lake Chapter of the League of Women Voters. It was a liberal group and sure to be hostile to her positions.

Like I had done years earlier at the UVU leadership forum, she willingly had walked into the belly of the beast. But, unlike me, she won the hearts and minds of most of the audience by the time she was finished.

As for my relationship with the speaker, she eventually trusted me enough to give me her personal cellphone number.