What do you do?
My career has been focused on helping young people with special needs. I am a speech-language therapist working in a middle school where I thoroughly enjoy helping my students become better communicators in life. It’s true that I learn just as much from them as I hope they learn from me. I also work with children in an after-school program at a local church in my community. I work as needed at a nursing home, assisting these fine individuals in regaining more independence to meet their needs in communication and improving their swallowing. In my experience the key to working with those in my jobs and volunteer work is to give people the respect they deserve and have some fun while meeting their goals.
How did you meet your spouse?
I attended East Central College in my hometown of Union, MO and John was literally the first college student I saw on my first day of school. There were two sets of doors in the college atrium. We simultaneously walked in on the opposite sides and made eye contact. We just happened to take the same two classes that summer. Our Biology professor had to separate us for talking too much (remember that I am a speech therapist and he is a lawmaker – we talk!). I liked him from the first time that I met him.
When you met your spouse, did you think they would run for office one day?
I always believed that John would run for office one day. On our first date after a movie and putt-putt golf, we drove up and down fifth street in Washington, MO and he asked me so many questions about myself that I felt like I was interviewing for a job! No other date asked my opinion on so many things. When he asked my party affiliation, however, I knew that I was in for a ride! It has turned out to be a wonderful ride.
What did you think when your spouse decided they would be running for office?
When John decided to run for office, it was no surprise. He has been actively involved in the public service and the political sector since the day we married. I am being very literal, since he was the campaign manager for his father’s run for State Senator. On our honeymoon I asked, “Who are you calling?” Yes, that would be his dad. I just had to chuckle. John had many other leadership positions throughout our marriage and always had considered running for office. However, he made it clear, and I agreed, that he wanted to wait until our children were older before he entered public service.
How has your spouse’s election impacted your family?
We are both committed to public service and there are always pros and cons to every situation. For example, we have to be more conscientious in scheduling family time and our community commitments. We are both committed to each other, our sons and our community and work hard to find the perfect work-life balance. When it gets down to it though, John’s involvement at the Capitol has turned us into more active citizens and have opened the door to meet so many people from all walks of life who have bettered us as a whole.
Tell us about your kid(s)/grandkid(s)(as applicable) – not applicable for grandchildren.
John and I have two very outstanding boys. Blake is twenty years-old and Clayton is seventeen years-old. Blake attends the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO and is in the Business School. He graduated from high school with honors and an Eagle Scout Rank that will take him far. Blake has the ability to successfully talk to anyone about anything. He is a good listener and enjoys the company of others. Clayton is a junior at Fort Zumwalt South High. He is also achieving honors and is working toward his Eagle Scout Rank. He has aspirations to become a computer engineer. Clayton has always had the determination to set a long-term goal and stick to it. When he sets his mind to it, he gets the job done. Currently, he is a lifeguard for the city of O’Fallon. My husband and I have joked that our sons are lucky to have us as parents, and our boys say that we are lucky to have THEM. This is very true.
What do the kids think about having a parent as a lawmaker? What do they think they do when they go to the Capitol?
The boys are proud of their father putting in the time and dedication to public service. Since our children are older and have been through high school government classes and involved in campaigns, they have a pretty good idea of what their father does. For the most part they think John spends a lot of time in meetings and listening to people about their concerns.
Do you have any fun stories about visiting the Capitol?
I have had many fun times at the Capitol during both serious and festive times. I have seen governors sworn in, witnessed John’s bills being signed into law, went to balls feeling like Cinderella, attended a masquerade ball fundraiser for the Capitol restoration, and have spoken to so many gracious people. Even when not in session, the Capitol is a great place to visit. The staff is courteous and the history is rich.
What does your family do when somehow everyone is home?
Unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often anymore, except during the holidays and occasional special family events. Generally we work on home projects, watch a movie, have a sit down family dinner, attend church, take a trip or attend a community event.
What have you learned about politics that you didn’t know before your spouse ran for office?
How do I even begin? As a student in school, I learned the basics about government. However, I never learned how the legislature actually conducted business. At John’s first swearing in ceremony as a State Representative in 2015, I sat through the first proceeding with my family. The Speaker of the House kept recognizing the gentleman from Butler. I texted my husband on the floor and asked, “Who is that guy from Butler, and why does he have so much to say?!” My husband informed me that it was Todd Richardson, the Floor Leader! Oops, my bad! I didn’t realize the Floor Leader’s duties.
This piece is featured as part of the Missouri Times’ Behind the Lawmaker appearing in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email email@example.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.