July 2, 2012

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Built to Lead

Perhaps no Utah governor in modern memory comes to the office with a broad...Read More

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Article

Jeanette Herbert

Utah’s First Lady, Manager and Champion

Kimball Thomson

July 2, 2012

When Gary Herbert assumed the mantle of Utah Governor in 2009, the state’s citizens also gained an energetic, accomplished First Lady with a powerful work ethic and a deep commitment to Utah and its families. 

While raising six “highly impressive” children, Jeanette Herbert also developed a vibrant entrepreneurial career—establishing a successful commercial preschool and childcare organization, the Kids Connection, which she ran for 23 years. She also served on the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce as chair of the Partners in Education committee, on the board of the Utah Private Child Care Association and as vice chair of the Utah County Bicentennial Committee.

Elevating Utah Families
Mrs. Herbert’s multifaceted life experience taught her that every individual needs to pursue her own interests and make her own contributions. In addition to her current service on the University of Utah's Achievement Rewards for College Scientists and Honorary Chair of the Governor's Commission on Literacy, the First Lady has created the Uplift Utah Families Initiative (http://www.upliftutahfamilies.org/). 

“This project is designed to enrich parents and families through the development of healthy parenting skills, and to offer support and resources for Utah parents and families,” says Mrs. Herbert. “There is nothing more meaningful or important than positive family relationships. Family is the glue that keeps individuals and societies intact and growing.”

Partners in Service
One of the key roles First Lady Herbert plays in the Governor’s office is that of champion, both for her husband and for causes near to her own heart. “I definitely see my role as that of champion--letting the Governor know that I’m behind him. I see how hard he works and how dedicated he is to protecting and improving quality of life for our state and its citizens, and I know him so well I can usually tell when he needs support, or space, or down-time.”

The demands of the Governor’s office have the potential to consume every ounce of time and energy for an office-holder--16-hour workdays are not uncommon for the Governor or Mrs. Herbert. Accordingly, the First Lady is adamant about managing the Herberts’ lives to ensure that they maintain a balance between the personal and the professional. In addition to cultivating golf as a diversion, the couple spends weekends in Utah County—where all six of their children and 13 grandchildren live—to maintain the sense of comfort, meaning and belonging that their tight-knit family imparts.

That’s where the partnership comes in for the Herberts. “We spend a lot of time together and have a strong sense of shared mission,” says the First Lady.

An Enduring Romance
Throughout all her activities and achievements, Mrs. Herbert has maintained a vibrant partnership and romance with her husband of 41 years.

The first time Governor Herbert saw the state’s current First Lady, she was a diligent 19-year-old window teller at a bank in Orem. He had just returned home from two years of volunteer service in the LDS Atlantic States mission. Young Gary Herbert’s first impression of Jeanette was immediate and indelible. “When I saw Jeanette from across the room, I was struck by her warmth and energy, and knew I had to get to know her,” he says—so he asked a friend of his who worked with Jeanette at the bank to introduce them.

“I was hard at work so I didn’t see him when he came in or when he left, but I did get a peak at his car,” recalls the First Lady with a chuckle. “It was a brand-new GTO and I’m a car person.”

Based on her co-worker’s positive impression of Gary and their shared taste in cars, she agreed to meet him. “I soon learned that it was actually his uncle’s car, but by then I liked Gary so much I didn’t care,” she says. Within six months, they were married.

Six children and thirteen grandchildren later, the Herberts’ mutual affection remains unmistakable and infectious. When the Governor arrived at the Governor’s Mansion for the First Couple’s interview, he took the time to serenade the First Lady with a crisp rendition of "As Time Goes By.” Mrs. Herbert describes her husband’s displays of affection as “something he does a lot.”   

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