SALT LAKE CITY– Every week during Utah’s 45-day legislative session, Sen. Diedre Henderson leaves her husband and younger children behind in Spanish Fork. She comes to the Capitol to work and revise bills, attend hearings, and vote on other bills. She and her oldest daughter, Hannah Henderson, say they drive to Salt Lake City so that they can help make a difference in Utah.
Since Sen. Henderson spends most of the legislative session living at the Little America Hotel, having her daughter intern for her makes this year’s legislative more special for the both of them. The two of them only see their family on the weekends before heading back to Salt Lake City.
Sen. Henderson is a BYU graduate who studied political science. She is married to Gabe Henderson and has five children.
This is Sen. Henderson’s fourth legislative session and has been in the senate seat for three years. She is a big advocate for government transparency and hopes to make information more accessible for people online.
“Every session I have been in the senate, I have run transparency bills,” she said. “Because I believe that government should be held accountable for public information and for the taxpayer money that it spends.”
This session, Sen. Henderson is running a bill that deals with the state’s financial transparency website. There are about 300 smaller government entities that are exempt from posting their financial information on the transparency website.
Sen. Henderson explained that their budget is less than a $1 million, so they don’t have the requirement to post their financial information online. “My bill will wipe away that exemption,” she said. “If you take public money, you need to put it on the transparency website.”
Her husband, Gabe, has little to no problems with his wife being gone for seven weeks during the Utah Legislature. Although it is hard to run a family without her, Mr. Henderson is willing to fill in for Sen. Henderson while she is in Salt Lake City for most of the week.
“The session forces us to be apart, which forces me and the kids to work together,” he said. “It helps us miss our mom and wife. We really appreciate all that she does during the year.”
Mr. Henderson is fully supportive of the work she does for the Legislature. “I am always so impressed with her,” he said. “It’s so easy for me to support her because she is trying to do the right thing—which is rare to see [in politics].”
Gabe Henderson and former Rep. Holly Richardson mentioned her passion for fighting for the underdog. Gabe Henderson mentioned events from last year where Johnson and Johnson wanted to put a minimum price on contact lenses and to prevent them from being sold at Costco.
However, Sen. Henderson fought them with a bill that would protect consumers. She wanted to make sure that eye contact lenses could still be bought at Costco instead of having them sold exclusively to optometrists.
Family members are not the only people who see Sen. Henderson’s hard work in legislature. Her friend, Richardson has known Sen. Henderson since they both worked on U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s campaign in 2008.
Both Sen. Henderson and Richardson are working on a bill that will help midwives. Richardson has announced plans on to running for a senate seat in the future. One side benefit, she’ll continue working with Sen. Henderson.
As an intern, Hannah Henderson enjoys working with her mother. Hannah had barely come home from an LDS mission to Tacoma, Washington, when she started the internship. “At first, it was difficult for me to decide if I wanted to do it because I would have to start five days after I got home,” she said.
Yet she felt good about interning for her mother. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn and to grow. . . and to find some more opportunities that will open up from this internship,” she said. “I thought it would be fun working for my mom.”
Hannah isn’t sure she wants to follow her mom into a job as a senator. “I don’t know yet… It’s definitely something to think about… I don’t have any specific dreams or goals to do this yet, I’m still exploring,” the younger Henderson said.
Hannah enjoys seeing how bills are passed. “Not a lot of people get to see in depth how it works.” She said. Hannah mentioned how neat it is to see all the different issues and bills being passed and how it will affect Utah later on.
Richardson describes some of her favorite things about the senator.
“She is brilliant [and] I love working with her on strategy,” she said. “We both have that love for representing the underdog. Anytime I can side with her to represent the underdog, it is great!”