Team Horman: daughter transfers schools to be closer to lawmaker mother

Eastern Idaho voters didn’t know it at the time, but their votes sent two Hormans to Boise on Election Day.

Shortly after freshman Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, was elected, her daughter, Julia Horman, decided to transfer schools for a semester to attend Borah High School and spend more time with her mother.

So, each morning at 6:20 a.m., Julia drives her mother from the one-bedroom Boise hotel they share to the Capitol, where Wendy Horman serves as one of nine rookies on the 16-member House Education Committee.

Julia and Wendy Horman
Julia, left, and Rep. Wendy Horman on the House floor

Then Julia heads off to school for her junior year.

Around 3:30 p.m. Julia drives back to the Capitol, and the mother-daughter duo spend the rest of the day together – usually attending a legislative reception or dinner, then retreating to the hotel to study homework assignments and legislative issues.

“I got to thinking if she is going to be over here, why couldn’t I go over and live somewhere else for awhile,” Julia Horman said. “It’s just turned into this great thing.”

Julia Horman is the youngest of Wendy and Briggs Horman’s five children – the only one left living at home when Horman contemplated her legislative campaign last year. As it turns out, Julia Horman was a driving force in her mother’s political career.

For the past 11 years, Wendy Horman has served on the Bonneville Joint School District 93 board of trustees. Then a seat in Horman’s legislative district, 30, came open after the incumbent failed to seek re-election.

“She got bombarded with calls saying ‘you have to run,’” Julia Horman said. “Whenever people always asked her to do these positions and do these thing, she always asked me ‘what you think of this?’ She always incorporated my opinion too.”

But for weeks, Wendy Horman’s answer to those calls was “no.”

Then, with Briggs and Julia urging her on, Wendy Horman decided to file.

So far, Julia Horman’s stopover in Boise has served as the most hands-on government course a high school junior could hope to complete.

She has watched members of the House set policy from a seat in the gallery overlooking the House floor.

She met House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

She gets an insider’s view of Idaho politics through her mother.

And – perhaps the greatest highlight so far – Julia Horman met astronaut Barbara Morgan, the longtime McCall-Donnelly elementary school teacher.

It’s also been a positive social experience.

Borah students sought Julia out at the lunch table.

She sings in the choir and attends Lions basketball games.

She plays ultimate Frisbee with friends at lunch, and was welcomed to the Student Council, where her peers call Julia “their ambassador from Idaho Falls.”

“It’s been a really good experience,” Julia said. “First of all, not many people have this opportunity and I thought I have got to grab it while I can. It’s just so cool to go somewhere else, meet new people and do things I’ve never done before.”

Wendy Horman hopes her stint in Boise is just as successful, and she already has several believers.

Charles Shackett, Bonneville Joint School District 93 superintendent, said Horman has the chops to become an effective lawmaker from the outset.

Chuck Shackett
Charles Shackett

“I know, from having to answer questions from Wendy, that she is going to make an outstanding legislator,” Shackett said. “I don’t think she’s going to wait around during her freshman year to do stuff – she understands public education so well.”

Indeed, Horman isn’t waiting around. She hasn’t sponsored legislation yet, but said she is finalizing a school safety bill she plans to bring before the House Education Committee. Horman opted to wait until the bill is up for introduction to discuss specific provisions, but said it is nearly ready – she initially hoped to present it on Monday.

As a member of the school board, Shackett said Horman developed a reputation as informed education advocate. Her work ethic stood out, and on the rare occasions she couldn’t vet an issue, she abstained from voting rather than casting an uniformed vote, he said.

That experience, combined with a stint as president of the Idaho State School Boards Association, helped prepare Horman for her ascension to the Legislature.

“It’s school board work on steroids,” Wendy Horman said. “The process is really the same as what you do on the school board, but you do it all day every day here.”

Shackett said Horman’s legacy in D93 is a positive one that will endure.

“She made her district better,” Shackett said. “She made me a better superintendent because she always does her homework and always knows what she is talking about.”

Despite the praise from Shackett, it is obvious that Julia is an even bigger fan. Julia encouraged her mother to run because she thought she would be the best at it, not because it would sound cool or be something to brag about.

WendyHorman2146
Rep. Wendy Horman

When asked how she knew her mother could succeed, Julia pointed to the 2012 primary and general election campaign seasons as an example.

Horman helped plan the weddings of two of her children.

She continued to serve on the local school district.

And she went back to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho to complete her degree in political science.

“What it was to me, was impressive,” Julia said. “She wanted to go back and finish, and it wasn’t because she had extra time, that’s for sure. She has five kids, within that two marriages, the campaign, she’s still on the school board and she’s got church callings and she’s got life. But she still went to back school and got good grades.”

Even though sharing a car and a hotel room have been an adjustment for the Hormans, neither one would change a thing.

After a long day in unfamiliar territory both have each for encouragement. They said that’s much better than the alternative; nightly video chats separated by 280 miles of highway if Julia remained in eastern Idaho.

“Sometimes we look at each other and say ‘We can’t believe this is happening to us,’” Wendy Horman said. “It’s so exciting and fun.”