First Lady and friends adjust to life in political spotlight

By Adrianna Pitrelli
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS — She’s a jack of all trades — an artist, a firearms instructor, a cook.

“She does everything,” Miriam Weaver said. “We’ve shot guns with her and then watched how great she is at entertaining and having people over and making sure everybody in the room is happy.”

First lady Janet Holcomb and two of her bridesmaids pose at her wedding. Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark said Holcomb’s wedding is one of their favorite memories of her. Photo provided.

She looks put together no matter what she’s doing.

“She’s like Jackie O, but Republican,” Amy Jo Clark said.

She is a friend, an aunt, the first lady — but she’s also an everyday person.

“She is still her, the Janet she’s been since we first met,” Clark said.

First lady Janet Holcomb, Weaver and Clark have been friends since 2009 when now-Gov. Eric Holcomb set up a breakfast date with the three of them — years later, they were her bridesmaids.

“We went out and thought ‘Oh my God, we love her,’ so we hit it off and became best friends,” Clark said. Clark and Weaver host “Chicks on the Right” on WIBC.

Growing up on a small horse farm just east of Muncie, Janet Holcomb loved being outdoors, reading and drawing. She enjoyed drawing so much that she started taking art classes at Ball State before pursing her fine arts degree there. She also helped lead her family’s fastener business, R & R Engineering — a bolt engineering company.

“I always balanced art with business courses since I grew up in a family of small business owners,” Janet Holcomb said. “I wasn’t certain what my intentions were at the time, but I was passionate about it so I pursued it to see where it would lead.”

It led her to political fundraising in 2001, which led her to Gov. Holcomb.

“I knew of him and we had mutual acquaintances but we didn’t meet until he started working for Gov. Daniels,” she said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and first lady Janet Holcomb as the governor takes his oath of office in January. Photo by Alexa Freeman, TheStatehouseFile.com.

The couple hit it off and have been happily married for five years. But until about a year ago, she never expected she would be the first lady.

In February 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence asked then-U.S. Senate candidate Holcomb to fill the vacancy of the lieutenant governor’s seat. He was sworn in on March 3.

“I thought, ‘Ok, we have four years to adjust to this role and contemplate if there is a next step if we want to do that’,” the first lady said.

But less than five months after being sworn into his new position, Gov. Holcomb got a call that Pence became the vice presidential-nominee. On July 26, he was named the gubernatorial candidate.

“I think Eric has always had a passion for serving others, so I wasn’t completely surprised,” Janet Holcomb said. “But the way the events transpired, no one could have predicted that.”

When Weaver and Clark heard the news, they immediately texted the first lady.

“We texted her,” Weaver said, “and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you could be the first lady.’”

“And she was like, ‘No way. There’s really no way I’m going to become first lady’,” Clark said.

First lady Janet Holcomb takes a selfie with her nieces, Victoria and Catherine. Her nieces love attending events with her, like the Indiana State Fair. Photo provided.

Even after becoming first lady, her nieces still see her as “Aunt Janet.” 

They have tagged along with her to events like the Indiana State Fair and the Governor’s Ball.

“When you are with her you would be nothing but happy,” her 10-year-old niece, Victoria Holcomb, said.

And the first lady, who was a 4-H’er herself, loves to support her nieces in their 4-H competitions.

“Since she has been in 4-H, she knows all the things you need to know about showing horses,” 10-year-old Kay Ann Amos said. “My Aunt Janet made a trip to my show this year to help me and give me great tips.”

Kay Ann has also stayed in the governor’s residence.

“It was like being in a maze,” she said. “But luckily Henry and Aunt Janet knew the way around.”

Henry is their beloved schnauzer who is almost always by her side.

But despite her new role as first lady, she said nothing has really changed — other than having security detail.

“The state police assigned an officer to me, so when I go to the grocery store, I have a security detail with me,” she said.

 And that’s changed how she can spend her free time.

“We can’t just go to Nordstrom whenever we want to,” Clark said.

Instead, the friends who love going on girls trips to Florida, zip lining and brunching — must check the first lady’s schedule.

The three friends recently spent a weekend at the governor’s cabin in Brown County and an afternoon at the governor’s residence.

“It was weird kind of because she’s our friend,” Clark said. “We were friends with her before she became first lady, so we just see her as Janet. Janet — our friend, Janet — who loves to be barefoot, just Janet.”

They love to joke about her new role, however.

“I go over there and I’m like, ‘You have three kitchens now. I don’t even know what to do with one kitchen’,” Clark said laughing. “And then I tell people that except and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, you hung out with the first lady’.”

From paying bills to hosting dignitaries for dinner, every day as first lady is different, but every day is a new challenge.

First lady Janet Holcomb and her friends, Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark, have been friends since 2009. They were both bridesmaids in Holcomb’s wedding. Photo provided.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I kind of enjoy new challenges and the change but it’s also very tiring.”

Her friends, nieces and those who know her best said she’s not only a great person, but also a great first lady.

“When you need someone, she knows what to say,” Clark said. “She understands how to be a first lady she is such a perfect representative for the state, but also a perfect friend.”

Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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