Mikey Hoeven’s life is about to change dramatically. After ten years as North Dakota’s First Lady, she is off to Washington, D.C. as the wife of the newly-elected U.S. Senator, John Hoeven.
Following a busy year of campaigning, Hoeven’s life got even more eventful after the election on November 2nd. “My mantra going forward is ‘one day at a time,’” she said. “There are so many changes being thrust at us in a relatively short period of time.”
Between the election and the actual Senate Swearing-in on January 5th, the Hoevens served their last month as governor and first lady, bought a house in Bismarck, found a place to live in Washington, D.C., moved out of the Governor’s Residence, and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Hoevens also attended orientation in Washington, D.C. for three very full days in November. “There was so much information presented to us,” explained Hoeven. “It was a lot to take in. It will be a completely different arena for John.”
The job arena will also change for the former First Lady. Every First Lady treats the position or title differently and Hoeven decided to make it a full-time commitment for the past 10 years. “The beauty of the job is that it could be whatever I wanted it to be,” she explained. “There really was no job description, which was good and bad. I was free to do what I wanted, but at the same time sometimes it would have been nice to have had some guidelines to follow.”
There is no official role for a Senator’s spouse and Hoeven has been strongly encouraged by many to continue to have a presence in North Dakota. “We have a home here and will be coming back often, so time will tell.” said Hoeven
There will be domestic adjustments for the Hoevens as well. The North Dakota Governor’s Residence comes with staff to cook, clean and organize. United States Senators are on their own in taking care of those tasks. “We will be renting an apartment and I will be back in the kitchen and the laundry room,” explained Hoeven. “And when I’m not there, John will be tending to these tasks!”
Life changes are nothing new to Hoeven, who has experienced many moves and transitions during her life. Raised in an Air Force family, she relocated often. Every year of high school she was in a new school in a different state.
Growing up in a fluid environment taught her how to deal with people and life in general. “I was always the new kid in class,” said Hoeven. “But, I wouldn’t have given it up for the world. My background has really helped me. It has taught me to be outgoing as well as flexible. Things change so fast and on any given day our schedule can change three times.”
Hoeven also credits her mother and the experiences in her formative years in helping her develop the strong faith she has come to rely on when challenges arise. “My mother instilled my faith in me at a very young age,” said Hoeven. “She talked about it with us, but she walked the talk and we saw that from afar. We learned that really anything is possible through God and through our faith.”
She says this powerful example has helped her over the past few years. “I have grown in my faith tremendously. I don’t do anything without going to God first. Life is tough enough with faith, without it, I can’t even fathom how difficult it would be. He is my anchor and had I not had that foundation instilled in me so many years ago, life would have been much more challenging for me,” said Hoeven.
Mikey and John
As fate would have it, Hoeven’s family was stationed at the Minot Air Force Base her senior year of high school. She then attended Minot State University and started working in customer service at First Western Bank and Trust. She got to know John Hoeven during the summers when he would return to Minot and work during his breaks from school.
They dated briefly, but Hoeven moved to Texas, where her parents retired, and attended the University of Texas. “I was there two years and John and I corresponded the whole time,” she said. “I decided to move back to Minot to see if things could work out for us. It was a good move!”
The couple was very active in the Minot community. “I will say that I always saw something in John,” she recalled. “He was always involved in the community, and got to know a lot of people that way. I remember saying to my mom one day, ‘He is so well liked and so respected.’ He has a God-given gift of connecting with people and has always been a very strong leader.”
In 1990 John became President of the Bank of North Dakota and the family moved to Bismarck. “We never expected to leave the bank in Minot,” said Hoeven. “But in this world, especially in the political arena, it’s all about timing and opportunity. You can plan all you want, but unless there is an opportunity to get your foot in the door and unless the time is right, it’s not going to happen.”
Ten years later the time was right for John to become North Dakota’s 31st governor and Hoeven’s life changed again. One of the challenges she initially dealt with was her lack of privacy. “I have gotten over that,” she noted. “However, living in a fish bowl can be a bit challenging at times. Sometimes it amazes me that people are interested in what we do or say because we are just normal people.”
Soon after becoming First Lady, Hoeven became aware of a survey that named North Dakota number one in the nation in under-age drinking. “When I found out we were number one, I was shocked and disappointed,” she said. “I realized that was where I wanted to put my energy. I hope that in the last ten years I have at least raised the awareness of the problem. That is half of the solution, realizing there is a problem.”
As part of her underage drinking campaign, she is a member of a coalition called Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, consisting of 35 governors’ spouses from across the nation. “We meet every year and last year I was presented with an award for my underage drinking awareness campaign in North Dakota,” said Hoeven. “That meant a lot to me because it was from my peers.”
Other significant moments while serving as North Dakota’s First Lady include presenting her faith journey at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and former First Lady Laura Bush’s visit to the state. “That is something I will never forget,” said Hoeven. “She is someone I have always had a deep respect for, so it was an incredible honor for me. I will always remember the time I got to spend with her one-on-one.”
The annual Women’s Health Summits are also events about which Hoeven remains passionate. She has hosted the events in Fargo and Bismarck with the goal to empower women in taking a more active role in their own health care.
“The energy in the room is so electrifying,” she explained. “It’s so fun to see women come out of there on fire and looking to make changes in their lives with regard to their health. I’ve learned so much in planning these events and from the speakers we have had. In some cases the information disseminated has saved lives. Over the years, I have received correspondence from women who have taken information learned at the summit, gone to their doctor and found out they had diabetes or breast cancer or other maladies.”
The Senate Campaign
There was a lot of speculation leading up to John Hoeven’s announcement he would run for Senate. “John and I gave the decision to run for the Senate much thought,” said Hoeven. “We discussed it together for months, talked to many people about it, were encouraged by hundreds of North Dakotans, and finally, after much prayerful consideration, we felt we were being called to do this and that the time was now.”
Not leaving anything to chance, the couple hit the campaign trail hard. “We worked very hard on the campaign,” said Hoeven. We never saw each other, because we were covering as much ground separately as we could.”
One of the ways she reached out to the state’s voters was through ‘Mingling with Mikey’ events across the state. “They were designed as women’s events but, after the first two, men started attending, which was great,” explained Hoeven. “I had a presentation and spoke about why John was running and what he wanted to do for North Dakota.”
She also wanted to include something fun during these events, so attendees were presented with a trivia contest called ‘How well do you know your Candidate?’ It was ten questions about John, and prizes were awarded for correct answers.
These campaign gatherings are just a few of the more recent North Dakota memories Hoeven continues to gather and treasure. “Had we not gotten elected, I would not have had the opportunity to travel the state, to meet the people I’ve met and to form the relationships and friendships I have. The people of our state are just amazing. I think part of the reason North Dakota is doing so well is because we have hard working, nose-to-the-grindstone, no nonsense, common sense-oriented people. They are our greatest natural resource and it has been a joy to serve them in this role.”
Hoeven said she is grateful for her experiences as North Dakota’s First Lady. “As First Lady I had the chance to do so many things. I have loved every minute of it. I will miss it, I will miss the people. It’s a great job, I highly recommend it.” But she is also looking forward to the changes that lie ahead. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I am excited to find out.”