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It was a birthday party Gabrielle Stanley of Dixie High School won't soon forget. She was elected Utah Girls State governor Friday night by the 396 girls attending the annual event sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.

Cheers could be heard across the Southern Utah University campus as new Girls State officers were announced following a banquet honoring state officers."It's the best birthday present I could ask for," Stanley told the girls at her inaugural ceremony immediately following the announcement. Stanley explained that she didn't plan to run for governor when she arrived last Sunday, but said she "decided to go for it" when others encouraged her.

She said the process started in the mass meetings of the two political parties, Federalists and Nationalists, and followed the exact system that is followed in real-world political life."It is the neatest experience you can imagine," Stanley said after her inauguration in the Centrum arena.

As part of an impressive ceremony, the girls sang farewell to former Girls State governor Alecia Thompson, who was elected here a year ago, as she left the arena after introducing the new governor.

Thompson told the girls to remember "what you stand for and never forget what you have learned here. Never settle for less than what you have accomplished here."

Amy Jo Richins of Olympus High School and Connie McCaleb of Taylorsville High School were elected senators and will go to Washington, D.C., in July representing Utah at Girls Nation. The girls will learn first-hand about how the federal government operates.

Tami Redd of Alta High was named lieutenant governor. All four of the girls will return next year to help oversee Girls State.

Richins said she has met some outstanding girls during the week from small towns and large ones. "It is great to see how everyone can be good friends and it is nice to learn that everybody is good at heart."

McCaleb agreed. She said she will always remember the friends she made, the counselors and the lessons she learned in putting the political process to work.

Judy Lewis was this year's director representing the American Legion Auxiliary. She was assisted by Karen Chynoweth and Marva Davis.

City parties were held Friday night after the inaugural and lights were "supposed" to be out at 10:30. A graduation ceremony was held in the afternoon and each girl, or citizen as they were called, was presented with a diploma. Tears and hugs were in abundance as the weeklong event ended.

Former prisoner of war Jay Hess, who served in Vietnam, spoke to the girls, and they participated in a mock trial and county commission sessions.