SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jason Love — aka Mr. Mia Love — never guessed where life would take him when he married Mia Bourdeau. The real short version is she was leaning against a parked car singing show tunes the first time he saw her and they married and had children and then a political career began because of bugs (a story for later).
Now here she is the first black Republican woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and he is, well, going along for the ride.
“I joined the Congressional Spouses Club,” he says, smiling. “I was the only male in a room full of middle-age women.”
Not that he fails to see the humor of a 37-year-old man in a roomful of women in their 50s and 60s, but if you’re thinking this guy must have been uncomfortable or that he is rolling his eyes as he talks about it, you are mistaken.
“It was fun,” he says. “People would think it was awkward being the only man there, but it was enjoyable. They were very good to me.”
Just for that, he gets named Husband of the Year.
The Loves were in Washington to attend orientation events for newly elected congresspersons. The schedule included a luncheon for the spouses, who have a formal organization that used to call itself the Congressional Wives Club, but is the Congressional Spouses Club to fit the times. It’s still largely female and no one would have blamed Love if he had skipped the luncheon. Instead, he not only attended the lunch event, he attended two of them. He went the distance, although he had to excuse himself at one point.
“When they were talking about nonprofit endeavors they were involved in, I had to step out to make a few for-profit business calls,” he explains.
By the way, the ladies nominated Love to be class president. He reluctantly declined because his schedule will be slammed with family and career responsibilities. Besides that, he is not moving to Washington.
The Loves could be one of Washington’s most intriguing stories — the mixed-marriage Utah Mormons from tiny Saratoga Springs — but he will stay home with their three children while his wife lives much of the time in Washington. He considered quitting his job and moving the family to Washington, but decided against it.
“It’s important that we’re not ever financially dependent on Mia's congressional career," he says. "When it’s your livelihood, your motivation changes. We don’t want our motivation to be financial dependence.”
He notes that this has been their philosophy throughout Mia’s political career. As a member of the Saratoga Springs city council she made $400 a month and as mayor it was $800. As a matter of principle, he says, the Loves rarely requested reimbursement for travel expenses or supplies. He paid for the laptop and cellphone she used as mayor.
“We felt it was a privilege to serve,” he says. “Your motivations change otherwise. You might do the politically expedient thing instead of the right thing.”
Jason will continue to work in Lehi — he is executive vice president of Xactware, a software company — and Mia will live and work in Washington during the week once her term begins in January, flying home on weekends. She expects to be home for one full week each month.
The Loves are using technology to compensate for the time they are apart. They set up iPads on their dinner tables — one in Washington and one in Saratoga Springs — and have family prayer and dinner “together,” 2,000 miles apart: “She eats while we eat,” says Jason.
He sends her video clips of their children; they watch football games “together” via FaceTime; she checks in with her children on FaceTime; and she sends him daily calendar invites to call her at noon each day just to talk.
"Mia is a very talented person,” says Jason. “If I didn’t feel like she could contribute to our state and our country, I’d keep her home to myself.”
He was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Connecticut when he saw Ludmya “Mia” Bourdeau the first time. The moment is still emblazoned in his memory. She was leaning against a car — he even remembers the car was red and possibly a Chevy Beretta — and she was singing show tunes.
“It was 'Les Mis' or maybe 'Phantom,'” he recalls, “and I thought, hmmm, that’s intriguing, seeing a dark woman singing show tunes with a beautiful voice.”
Mia, black, beautiful and outgoing, had converted to the LDS Church several months earlier. Jason knew the missionary who had taught and baptized her — an Elder Ryan Hill. Jason continued to stay in touch with Hill after he returned to his home in Utah, and one day Hill called to ask him for a favor: Mia, by then a flight attendant, was moving to Utah to be around the Mormon culture – could he help her move in? Four months later Jason and Mia married.
Their backgrounds couldn’t have been more different. He’s white, she’s black; he’s Mountain West, she’s East Coast; she’s the big-city girl who sang on stage; he's a Utah/Idaho kid who worked in potato fields.
Mia is the daughter of Haitian refugees who came to America in 1973, leaving two children behind until they could afford to send for them (which turned out to be five years later). Mia was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Jason spent his early years in Idaho and at 10 moved to Ohio, where his father, a software engineer, worked for Bell Labs. His mother died when he was 12 and his father remarried and moved the family to Idaho. Jason worked on farms in the area. He moved sprinkler pipe, drove trucks and harvested potatoes.
During the potato harvest, he worked 12-hour shifts, following the combines to pull rocks, sticks and rotten potatoes as they passed by on the conveyor built.
“My father and grandfather believed in work, and that as long as you can work you can succeed,” he says.
The family eventually moved to Utah, where Jason graduated from Pleasant Grove High School and a year later headed to New York to serve a Mormon mission. He served first in the Bronx and Manhattan and then later in Connecticut. It was his first exposure to blacks: “It was culture shock on my mission,” he says.
After Jason and Mia married, they settled in pervasively white Utah, living first in American Fork and then buying a home in Saratoga Springs. In answer to your next question, no, their mixed marriage never brought them social grief: “People have been really good to us,” says Jason.
This begins a discussion of his belief that America has moved past such things and that the recent race controversies (most notably in Missouri) are largely media driven.
“We’re in a good place in America,” he says. “Race relations are good. Look, we’ve got Barack Obama as president and Mia Love has just been elected to Congress. Skin color is like eye and hair color. The people of Utah have been amazing. They genuinely believe we’re brothers and sisters, God’s children.
"I see such wonderful progress in race relations. The things that are happening now are isolated circumstances. Certainly tragedies take place — the man being choked in New York and the mixed-race man being shot in Saratoga Springs. There are bad things that happen every day.”
Mia, while raising the couple’s three children (Alessa, 14; Abi, 12; and Peyton, 7), dabbled in everything from fitness classes to music and school programs while Jason started a career and chipped away at his education, taking a degree in information technology 17 years later.
Jason has said frequently that his wife never showed political inclinations until the neighborhood was attacked by swarms of tiny flies called midges. Mia took a lead role in an effort to get city officials and developers to address the problem.
“She’s always been a go-getter and people saw that in her,” says Jason. “People in the neighborhood recognized Mia was someone who talks straight and gets things done.”
That has taken her all the way from Saratoga Springs (population: 27,000) to the nation’s capitol, and after three years of campaigning and working toward this end they have learned to adapt and prepare for the demands of a Congressional seat.
Neighbors, coaches, school teachers, ward members and extended family members have helped with carpooling, childcare and other needs. Jason's sister and her husband — Jessica and Danny — live in the area, as does Mia’s sister Cindi (whom Jason calls “Mom No. 2”) and her husband Eddie — and have frequently come to their aid.
“I’m not a crier,” says Jason, “but we’ve had some experiences that have been so moving that it made us cry. People have done so much to support us. Just simple things such as picking up our kids. Over the last three years we’ve worked hard to make sure that the temporal, spiritual, emotional, social and academic needs are met for our children.
"Problems occur when you fail to manage those. We’ve had tremendous help, and I have a great employer who is very flexible with me. Things have fallen into place to allow us to do this. The right people have come into our lives.”
The Loves will be apart much of the time during the next couple of years, if not beyond. If it’s a sacrifice, they reason it is a small one compared to those made by servicemen or even Mia’s parents.
"Our children are proud and excited about this,” says Jason. “They will get to have neat experiences. Like other mothers, Mia has the ability to keep track of a lot of moving parts and involve our children in this process, such as taking them to a dinner event or a town hall meeting. It engages our children. Ultimately, our objective is to raise our children well.”
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