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 my eyes, there has never been a more hard-working man for this state than Gary. At times our family has been genuinely worried about his health because he chooses people over food and service over sleep. He has walked, driven and flown all over the great state of Utah meeting people and participating in parades, fundraisers, charity events — you name it.
But the governor’s job entails much more than just cutting ribbons and kissing babies. He is also Utah’s CEO, leading legislative sessions, signing or vetoing bills, and making tough policy decisions, just to name a few. He is the “it” man.
I got to see firsthand how dedicated my father-in-law really is when my husband and I moved into the governor’s mansion during Gary’s first few months in office while our house was being renovated. Often times he’d get home well after we’d turned in for the night and leave before we woke in the morning.
Sometimes my husband would look his father up and down as he finally sat on the couch for a moment of respite (well actually, scratch that: those precious moments of down time were usually interrupted with the latest “Dancing With the Stars” episode I had sneakily set to record on his big screen TV).
My husband would ask him, “What did you have for dinner, Dad?” Gary would respond: “Nothing yet.” And then he’d head over to the cabinet for that can of Nally’s Chili, perfectly content with a bowl of soup and piece of bread. (And by the way, even though he’d frequently feign outrage at my many attempts to commandeer the remote control, muttering things like “I thought this was called the GOVERNOR’S mansion,” he never once made me change the station.)
Gary appreciates the simple things in life. He knows how to live without all the “fluff” frequently associated with modern-day politics. He really loves his work-and the opportunity to work. It’s who he is.
A few months ago when we arrived home from our annual family trip to Bear Lake, my husband walked out to the backyard and announced that the boat we had borrowed from a family member needed to be cleaned and washed. Gary had literally just sat down from cleaning out the trailer, putting things away in the house, unpacking, and writing a speech he was giving the following day. He closed his eyes briefly, then looked up from the rocker he was in and said, “I’ll give you 45 minutes” and got right back up to help.
We all followed him out to the driveway where we starting cleaning and scrubbing and polishing that boat ’till it shone like new. He even involved the grandkids, giving them little brushes or playfully spraying them with the hose. He made the job fun — and through example taught me an important lesson in helping out and getting things done without complaining. As the famous Herbert saying goes, “Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t.”
We all watched Gary walk right into his position as governor. I remember I was in nursing our firstborn son when my husband came into our room late one night after seeing the announcement on the news and said, “Gov. Huntsman has just agreed to be the Chinese Ambassador. My dad is going to be the governor.” How would he accept this new challenge, we wondered? Would it be overwhelming or difficult for him to transition?
Our worries were quickly put to rest as soon as Gary stepped up to the plate. It was as if the “Governor’s Suit” had been tailor made for him. I have never heard Gary complain, or talk about how stressed, how tired or how overwhelmed he is. He just rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
I am proud to know that under the leadership of my father-in-law, our state has been recognized as one of the best-managed states in the country. We are ranked among the most “fiscally fit.” Utah was the first to recover from the economic downfall, and has recently been named the Best State for Business and Careers by Forbes magazine.
It has been frustrating for me to observe that while there is so much good being done for our state, people who have supported Gary and have agreed with him on 90 percent of the issues can be so quick to turn on him if there is something they disagree with, and disregard every other good decision he’s made. I believe Gov. Herbert has played a huge role in cooperation with many other leaders and great people in doing something right for Utah.
My son has a sleeper T-shirt that reads, “Gary’s my Gov” on the front. I think this is hilarious. He screams out “PAMPA!” as loud as he can whenever we pass a billboard with Gary’s face on it. His eyes light up whenever Gary reaches down and lifts him in his arms, softly whispering, “Who’s my buddy?” in his little ear.
He doesn’t see how tired Grandpa is, how hard he’s worked that day, the weariness in his eyes or the worry lines that sometimes cross his forehead; because when Gary holds his grandchild tightly to his chest, he makes him feel as if he’s the only thing in the world that matters. This speaks volumes about a man who makes time for family.
A few months ago as we were turning in for the night after the Spanish Fork rodeo, at which Gary was honored, my husband casually stated, “I miss the good ol’ days”, referring to the “yes, ma’am” cowboys, fried chicken and simple frontier living.
Gary quietly contemplated this before responding with something I’ll never forget:
“Brad,” he said, “these ARE the good ol’ days. We have the world at our fingertips. Think about how far we’ve come, in even the last 10 years. Think about all of the new technology we have. This is a wonderful time to be living, full of opportunity. Yes, times are challenging. But there is also so much to be grateful for.”
Gary’s ever-optimistic outlook on life and positive attitude has made a lasting impression on me. He has taught me in so many ways to be a better person, to look for the good things in life, and it’s men like my father-in-law who make me proud to be an American, proud to be a Utahan and proud to be a Herbert.