Editor’s note: Deseret News blogger Carmen Rasmusen Herbert takes a break from entertainment to write about her father-in-law, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. With the governor constantly in the news, Carmen wanted to give readers a look at her father-in-law away from the headlines and inside his family.
In light of the last legislative session and controversial issues my father-in-law has tackled, I decided to take a break from fluffy entertainment and write an honest, behind-the-scenes piece on the guv I see, know and love.
You don’t know Gary Herbert.
At least not like I do.
I’ll bet you didn’t know his favorite thing to wear when not sporting a power suit is an old pair of college sweats.
His favorite place to eat out is not at some fancy restaurant but at the Sizzler downtown where he always, without fail, orders the Malibu Chicken with Texas toast.
At 60-something years of age he can, on any given day, challenge my 20-something-year-old husband to a game of tennis – and beat him. (And by the way, my husband boasted a No. 1 state ranking back in high school, and played for BYU.) The game usually rides on a mutually shared favorite treat that has become a Herbert family cupboard staple in most of his six children’s households: Nesquick chocolate milk.
He can’t sing in falsetto, which is somewhat astonishing to me; although he has one of the best tenor voices I’ve heard. He’s made a hole-in-one. He’s taken ballroom classes.
I want to share with you the Gary Herbert I know and look up to. Not the one you see perceived on TV or in the media, but the real man; this coming from a true “insider” who has a unique perspective on who Gary Herbert really is as my father-in-law, my children’s grandfather and my governor.
The first day I met Gary was the same day I met my husband Brad in Provo at the Stadium of Fire. Gary was running for Lt. governor at the time, along with Jon Huntsman Jr. I was performing that day and when I came off the stage and sat down, a friend of the family turned to me and told me there was a boy who wanted my autograph seated just a few rows behind us in the bleachers. She quickly explained that this boy was the son of the possible next Lt. governor, and that he came from a great family.
Excited that I had a “fan” who would take the time to try and get my attention for a signed piece of paper (and that I was making some political connections), I followed her back to the family. Gary’s hand was the first one I shook. I remember his smile the most. He smiled with his eyes. Maybe he was just happy that his son’s gutsy plan at getting the attention of “the blonde girl” had actually worked and was proud of him for taking initiative, but I remember thinking to myself, “He seems really genuine.” When I got to his last child, my future husband Brad, he indeed pulled out a paper and pen and asked if I’d sign his program (which he’s saved to this day)/ After a quick smile and wink at Brad, I turned back to Gary and told him if he ever needed someone to sing at a political function to please keep me in mind. I was looking for ways to keep my name out there, since I was fresh off of American Idol and wanted a job. He was looking for ways to marry off his youngest son.
It was a perfect match.
He gave me his business card and I wrote my number on the back. Needless to say, five years later, I’ve been able to sing at many a Herbert political functions and did indeed end up marrying that boy at the end of the row.
Now I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by Gary at first. He commands attention. You can’t help but be a little in awe of him, simply by the way he conducts himself. He is confident and very sure of who he is and what he’s doing.
I don’t think I’ve ever questioned that Gary really knows what he’s talking about. He does. He has a keen sense of right and wrong, of what will work and what won’t. You can call it confidence or even cockiness, maybe; I think it’s good old common sense.
I am ashamed to say I knew very little about politics before I started dating Brad. That changed quickly.
Apparently, I had committed the ultimate sin of omission by Herbert standards, simply by being over the age of 18 and not registered to vote. I remember the first time I casually brought this up to Brad and Gary. I laughed it off like it was no big deal. Brad showed up with a registration ballot on our next date and told me I’d better have a sticker on my shirt this year when elections came around, or I wouldn’t be invited back in the Herbert home.
He was only semi-kidding.
Once Gary caught wind of this, he began immediately telling me how important it was to show support for the candidates. He made me think seriously about what my values are, who I want to represent me and why. He stressed the importance of studying out the issues, going to caucus meetings and turning up to vote every election to have my voice be heard. Others sacrificed so I could have the freedom and opportunity to have a say in the way our state was to be operated, and by whom. That’s a privilege.
Being a dual citizen of both Canada and the United States (I was born in Edmonton, Alberta) and having a Canadian father and an American mother who disagree somewhat when it comes to party lines, politics was something that was discussed rarely – if ever – in my Rasmusen home. That’s not to say it wasn’t important. In fact, I remember going to the elementary school with my mother to vote on several occasions growing up. I just never asked what she was doing, who she was voting for or why.
Now compare this to a family who discusses candidates, debates and state issues every Sunday around the dinner table. The Herberts interweave politics into their everyday lives. It’s who they are: a dedicated family driven by a sense of duty, service and genuine love for the state of Utah. I was amazed at how deeply rooted patriotism and loyalty are in the Herbert home. This is largely in part because of Gary.