Indiana First Lady Janet Holcomb spoke about Gov. Eric Holcomb’s initiatives at the June 11 Rotary Club of Carmel meeting, but mostly she shared about her experience as first lady.
“This group wanted to know about being first lady, so I’m going to shift and share thoughts and stories and experiences I think you might enjoy,” Holcomb said. “One of the most obvious transitions since assuming office was moving to the governor’s residence. For me, the most jarring adjustment is the number of people who see me in my bathrobe or in sweaty clothes after working out or covered in dirt after working in the garden. That was very awkward and uncomfortable at first, but I’ve grown used to it.”
Holcomb said as first lady, a long-standing tradition for each new administration is to pick out a china pattern. Holcomb used symbols of Indiana such as the cardinal, the peony, the tulip tree, “Back Home Again in Indiana” lyrics and the Say’s firefly in her design.
Holcomb also shared stories about Henry, the family’s miniature Schnauzer.
“He is an internet celebrity,” Holcomb said. “He is so popular he routinely receives wedding invitations. Nothing makes you more humble than when someone asks for a photo and then hands me their cellphone.”
As governor and first lady, the Holcombs can make changes to the governor’s residence in Indianapolis. So far, the governor has added a basketball court on the north side of the property, and Holcomb built a chicken coop that can be converted to a garden shed. Holcomb also spoke about pranks she’s pulled on her husband, such as obtaining several full-body mount deer from the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources and staging them in the hallway to scare her husband.
Holcomb also said one aspect she had to get used to was Indiana State Police officers accompanying her and Eric Holcomb on date nights and during family vacations. She shared how once, when walking Henry, some women stopped her with the concern that a black vehicle was following her, although it was just a state trooper.
At the end of the presentation, Holcomb answered several questions from Rotarians. Some of them were:
Q: What is your most important responsibility as first lady?
A: “Taking care of the governor and making sure everything in our personal lives is off of his plate so he can focus on the work of the state.”
Q: What are your responsibilities as to the involvement in the public?
A: “The role of first lady is relatively undefined, and each first lady in the administration has found her niche. I’ve certainly done the same – just areas you want to be more involved in, help promote or organizations you want to spotlight and causes you want to bring attention to. It’s a wonderful ability and platform to be able to help bring recognition to people and things and places around the state.”
Q: What role do you play when it comes to legislative matters and governor decisions?
A: “We talk about a lot of things going on. Not every single bill, of course. There’s hundreds and thousands each session, but the major issues we talk about, and Eric values my opinion and asks for my feedback and I give feedback on his speeches and suggestions.”