What do you do?
I am a registered nurse at a surgery center.
How did you meet your spouse?
Dean and I met through a friend of a friend. We met approximately two years after my fiancée died and neither one of us were looking for a serious relationship. I remember telling him, the night we met, that I never wanted to get married or have kids, that those dreams were all gone. Turns out, I was wrong. Dean made me laugh and feel alive again. We have been happily married for twelve years and have two children.
When you met your spouse, did you think they would run for office one day?
No. When I met Dean he had his own law firm and was satisfied practicing law, being an elected official was never an ambition of his. It was not until after our two children were born that he felt a need to make Missouri a better place for them and future generations.
What did you think when your spouse decided they would be running for office?
The decision to run for public office was a decision that Dean and I made together. We both believe that being an elected official is not a career choice but a calling to serve the community.
How has your spouse’s election impacted your family?
My family and I are grateful for the opportunity that Dean has been given to serve the people of Missouri. Being in the State Legislature is a major time commitment that frequently takes Dean away from our family. It is definitely not a part-time job. All of us have learned to adjust in our own way. I have become a solo parent a lot of the time, adjusting my work schedule to accommodate his schedule. Dean misses out on being around for the kid’s school events and sport activities. The kids just miss their daddy being around to play with and hug. It takes work, but we feel it is worth the sacrifice.
Tell us about your kids.
We have two incredible children who are active and keep us very busy. Owen is eleven and Stella is nine years old. They are our world and motivation in life. We are blessed by their presence, spirit and innocence.
What do the kids think about having a parent as a lawmaker? What do they think they do when they go to the Capitol?
Owen and Stella love that their daddy is an elected official and are very proud of him. We try to involve them in the political process since his role in politics affects their lives too. It is truly a family commitment.
Our children have recently learned about the role of government in school and have a basic understanding of what Dean does as a legislator. They are inquisitive and ask him many questions, especially in regards to how Dean voted, or why he voted a specific way. It is always interesting to hear their opinions and suggestions.
Do you have any fun stories about visiting the Capitol?
My daughter’s birthday is in February, during session. This year her only birthday request was to spend her birthday with her daddy, so we drove up to Jefferson City to spend the day with him. Dean’s Legislative Assistant, Diana surprised her and decorated his office to help make her day special. Dean also surprised her with a visit up to the dais and he presided as speaker for the first time with both kids with him.
What does your family do when somehow everyone is home?
It does take a little getting used to Dean being home again. I love having him home, but he tends to mess with the routine the kids and I have, but we learn to adjust. I think Dean being away helps me to appreciate the everyday things he does that I may ordinarily take for granted.
What’s your favorite story of being a spouse of a lawmaker?
I do not have a favorite story as a spouse, but I will share a memorable story. On the last day of session, Dean wanted us to come to the Capitol because he was going to pass a bill. Upon our arrival, Dean brought the kids with him as his bill was introduced on the floor. I was standing in the side gallery when I was invited by Speaker Pro Tem Haahr up to the dais to watch my family. I proceeded to the dais and watched proudly as my husband spoke and my children tried to pay attention. The bell rang to vote and I started walking down the stairs. As I was walking, I missed the last step, fell, and twisted my ankle in front of everyone. I was completely embarrassed. Dean had to carry me out of the Capitol. I spent weeks in a walking boot for a sprained ankle. In the future, I will be declining any offers up to the dais.
What have you learned about politics that you didn’t know before your spouse ran for office?
The past couple of years have shown me many aspects of political life. I know, as a wife of one of the legislators, I may be biased but I also have an inside view that others do not. I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many in the legislature and find those serving in the Missouri Legislature to be decent, down to earth, hardworking people who want to serve the people of Missouri and do good things for their community. I cannot speak for all of them, but I do not believe that the majority are there for power or personal gain. In fact, many have had to give up their careers or take a financial loss in their business in-order to serve. In addition, I know the Legislative Assistants and other State staff work incredibly hard to also benefit our State and our communities.
I have learned that politics are often a lot more complicated than they seem, and it takes a lot of strategy, compromise, and hard work to get a bill passed. It can take a long time, even years, to get a bill passed in the House. Things seem to move at an even slower rate in the Senate. I learned that with 163 State Representatives, working together is vital to getting anything done. Most importantly, I know that a good politician does not care who receives credit for a bill, as long as the legislation is passed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.