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Doug Robinson: Menlove doesn't believe in career politicians — so she's leaving after 10 years in the house

Published: Tuesday, May 6 2014 11:38 a.m. MDT

A self-described policy wonk, she discovered that she enjoyed learning of problems in the community and finding ways to address them with good policy. She ran many bills each session, but she names three causes that were among her favorites — aiding autistic children and their families, a job-training program for the disabled, and the nation’s first public education initiative to educate medical and daycare providers on prevention of cytomegalovirus (CMV). All three causes drew from her background in education. The latter cause hit close to home — she has a granddaughter who is deaf as a result of CMV.

“It became really personal,” she says.

Though her work has drawn her into the city, the former farm hand has never quite left her roots behind. She likes to wear her cowboy boots — red or black — to the Legislature and she credits the farm for her work ethic.

A shy youth, she depended on reading and the bookmobile for her entertainment, and she embraced the solace of the farm while changing siphon tubes in the wee hours and working in the fields.

“I loved being out in the middle of the night irrigating,” she says. “It was peaceful and beautiful. That, and the long hours in the hayfield gave me lots of time to think.”

She graduated magma cum laude from Utah State in 1973 with a degree in Spanish and a minor in history. Later she earned a master’s degree in secondary ed at Indiana University. A friend introduced her to Martell at church, after telling her privately that he wasn’t her type. They married and went to work as educators before deciding they needed more education. They used a tag-team routine to pursue Ph.D.s at Utah State. While she worked, he went to class and then they switched places. It took eight years to complete both degrees, and they lived three of those years in a single-wide trailer with five children on the USU campus.

It can’t be surprising that four of the Menlove’s five children have careers in education — Megan, an assistant principal; Ross, an elementary school teacher; Sara and Rebecca (special ed teachers), although two of them have scaled back to be at home with their children (their other child, Taylor, is an attorney).

Now Menlove is also scaling back her work load, although she will continue as a senior vice provost at USU. As she tells it, when she grew up on the farm her grandmother lived next door and was her best friend.

“I want to feel like my grandkids have a great relationship with me,” she says.

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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