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March 19, 2013

Karen Pence forging her role as first lady

She’ll announce the issues she will champion in May

INDIANAPOLIS — As the mother of three young children when her husband was first elected to Congress, Karen Pence heeded the advice of some friends who encouraged her to move her family to the Washington, D.C., area rather than stay behind in Indiana.

It was a decision she never regretted. In a city filled with famous and important people, the children of an Indiana congressman didn’t get treated as if they were something special. Nor did the congressman himself. 

Now the first lady of Indiana, Karen Pence recalls the 12 years spent in the nation’s capital with now-Gov. Mike Pence with fondness. 

“He’d come home at night and I’d ask him to walk the dog or take out the trash,” she said. “It was a very normal life.” 

She tells the story with laughter as she walks a guest through the official governor’s residence, where she and her husband and the youngest of their three children moved to in mid-January. 

Friendly and open, Karen Pence, 55, calls it an “honor” and “privilege” to be living in the 1928-built, English Tudor-style mansion in one of Indianapolis’ loveliest neighborhoods. But the move also means a much more public life for a family that guards its privacy. 

She’s approaching it with humor, noting that it’s gotten harder for her to slip into the Kroger grocery store unnoticed.  

“We left the lights on one night when we’d come over here before we’d actually moved in,” she said. “There was a story running the next day: ‘The Pences have moved in. The lights are on in the residence.’ And we hadn’t even moved in yet.”

An artist and teacher, Mrs. Pence is still deciding what issues she’ll champion in her role as Indiana’s first lady. She wants to wait to announce those issues until May, after her husband gets through his first legislative session with a General Assembly that’s proving hard to control. 

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