Wendy Horman is a wife, mother of five and a decade-long school board member. She has added legislator to her resume and now House Education Committee member, which will require a bigger commitment to public service. Horman is willing to devote her time to education and politics — time that could be spent with her large family — because she wants to help Idaho education continue to improve.
“Wendy has the courage and energy to stand up for difficult things and make change where change is needed,” said her husband Briggs Horman. “I think there’s something internal that says ‘I want to make a difference, and I’m going to try.’ I think there’s something deep in her that makes Wendy choose to do more.”
Wendy had never planned on running for the Idaho Legislature. But when an open seat became available, her community encouraged her to run because she has long been a popular trustee on the Bonneville School Board in Idaho Falls. Her third-term victory was a landslide.
Wendy wasn’t convinced, initially, that she should take this political step. In fact, she told a friend she would not run.
“School board members know first-hand that public service is not easy work, and I was not sure I had the energy to tackle the challenge,” Wendy said.
As she was leaning against running, her husband Briggs was flipping through a book that Wendy left on the counter called The Moral Imperative Realized by Michael Fullan, who is an expert on system-wide change. Briggs was attracted to a passage that Wendy had highlighted:
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.
I rejoice in life for it’s own sake. Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch which I have to hold for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations. — Michael Fullan
Briggs left the highlighted passage open for her to see again. He didn’t need to say another word about running.
“Thanks to Briggs, my children, and some other kind, wise mentors’ encouragement, I entered the race and won,” Wendy said.
In May, Wendy dominated the three-way Republican race for the Idaho House of Representatives, Legislative District 30, Seat B. She defeated Constitutional candidate Robert Gorgoglione Sr. in the November general election.
Education is her passion, politics is her avenue for change
Wendy’s passion for education comes from her parents, who set an example by being actively involved community members and advocates for education.
After being appointed a seat on the school board, she kept her position for 10 years and was elected treasurer the last three years. She served on the Students Come First Technology Task Force in 2011, and is a former president of the Idaho School Boards Association. She oversaw research with the Lighthouse Project on the role of the school board in student achievement, and she testified before legislative committees on issues of importance for students and taxpayers.
During Wendy’s tenure on the board, the Bonneville School District has changed its practices, integrated technology and worked toward continuous improvement. The district is one of 49 that joined the Idaho Leads Project, a professional development program focused on building leadership capacity and sharing best practices.
Bonneville superintendent Charles Shackett invited Horman to join him on their Idaho Leads Project team. One of the assignments for participants was to read The Moral Imperative Realized, which led to Wendy running for the Legislature.
“There have been many leadership courses that bring teams together, but very few have included board members — Idaho Leads took that step,” Wendy said. “Distributed leadership is a key to success. I’m deeply grateful to Boise State University for organizing this first-of-a-kind project in Idaho.”
Building on her political resume
The Hormans realize that jumping into the political arena will change their lives. The phone already rings more and family members get questions from friends as well as strangers.
“The changes are worth it,” Briggs said, “and Wendy’s energy is a point of pride for the family.”
Shackett said Wendy is a well-informed and courageous woman who has eloquently tackled difficult issues during their 10 years working together on the Bonneville School Board.
“Wendy is highly respected by state leadership in both the House and Senate and by the many legislative committee members that witnessed her testimonies and presentations,” Shackett said. “Many of these leaders have placed Wendy on their decision-making task forces in areas of needed reform. Her statewide status and reputation for excellence in education is exemplified as she accepts the appointment from Governor Otter as a co-director for the Yes! For Idaho Education.”
Wendy has dedicated her political career to implementing things statewide that have already been implemented in Bonneville, such as recognizing and rewarding teaching excellence, dual-credit classes and online courses. She wants to see schools focus on collaborative learning and distributed leadership.
“For so long, school board members have been pitted against union leaders at the bargaining table. It’s a completely different experience to sit at a table as colleagues, working collectively to improve student learning,” Wendy said.