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The City Journals

New Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson once called Taylorsville home for several years

Feb 16, 2021 03:21PM ● By Carl Fauver

New Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson attended public schools in Taylorsville for grades 4 through 10. (senate.utah.gov)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

“She hit me hard over the head with that bottle—it hurt!”

That’s how Taylorsville resident and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton describes the blow she received from Utah’s newly elected Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson. Moreover, Henderson openly admits doing it.

That could have been a juicy story if it had happened last year, during the Republican primary campaign for governor, when Newton was running for the post against Spencer Cox and Henderson.

But, sadly—at least for those who aren’t satisfied with the amount of controversy we already see on the political landscape these days—the incident didn’t happen in 2020. And a few other facts are probably necessary: 

  • The bottle landed on Newton’s head during a rehearsal for the musical “Guys and Dolls.”
  • The production was staged at Bennion Jr. High School in 1989.
  • The show’s faculty director instructed Henderson to do it. 
  • The “weapon” in question was a prop bottle, designed to break easily.
  • The two have remained close friends (although Newton has never let Henderson live it down).

“We’ve laughed about that so many times,” Newton said. “Even though we’ve not seen each other much in recent years, I still consider Deidre to be a close friend. And I feel she is one of the most qualified people in Utah to work for the state government.”

Deidre Hulse (long before marriage changed her last name to Henderson) lived with her parents and siblings in the Taylorsville area before the city was incorporated in the 1980s. She attended fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Harry S. Truman Elementary, seventh through ninth at Bennion Junior High and 10th grade at Taylorsville High.

“My two older brothers both graduated from Taylorsville High, in 1988 and 1989,” Henderson said. “But my family moved quite a bit when I was a kid. The day I got out of 10th grade, we moved to Minnesota. But I lived longer in Taylorsville than anywhere else during my childhood. I have many great memories.”

After graduating from a suburban Minneapolis high school in 1992, Hulse soon found her way back to Utah. And soon after that, the Hulse-to-Henderson name change came along.

“I enrolled at BYU in the fall of 1992 and met my husband (Gabe Henderson) in a French class on the first day of my second semester, in January 1993,” Henderson said. “He had played baseball for BYU as a freshman and was just returning from a (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) mission, in California. We dated for two months, got engaged and married in the Salt Lake Temple in July 1993.”

Henderson said, five children in eight years came next, putting her education on the back burner, as motherhood took center stage.

“I have been attending BYU, piecemeal, for the past 28 years,” she quipped. “I will finally graduate in December with a degree in history.”

Back when she was still Hulse, Deidre says her first foray into politics was a disaster.

“I ran for seventh grade secretary (at Bennion Junior High) but lost,” she lamented. “I was so shy. I hid in the girls’ bathroom during the assembly where I was supposed to give a speech. My mom was an artist and made my campaign posters. They had a picture of a fluffy rabbit on pink paper and said ‘No bunny would be better than Deidre Hulse for secretary.’ I later told her she would not be doing any future campaign posters for me.”

Nearly 30 years later, her next campaign was more successful, when the mother of five was elected to the Utah State Senate, representing District 7 (Spanish Fork, Provo, Payson, Elk Ridge, Springville, Salem, Woodland Hills, Vineyard and Santaquin).

“I was elected in November 2012 and was a freshman lawmaker in January 2013, at the same time as Spencer Cox,” she said. “He was elected to the House while I was in the Senate. We got to know each other quickly.” 

“I am grateful Sen. Henderson has accepted our invitation to join the campaign,” Spencer Cox said in his March 2020 news release, announcing her as his Lt. governor running mate. “She is a tremendous leader, a consistent conservative and unafraid of doing what is right for the people she serves. I am confident we have found the perfect partner.”

Before officially accepting Cox’s invitation to join him on the campaign trail, Henderson first had to speak with her longtime friend Newton.

“I had been openly supporting Aimee (for governor) and had given her a campaign donation,” Henderson said. “When I told her I was asked to join (GOP primary opponent) Spencer Cox’s campaign, she was very gracious and supportive. I have so much admiration for Aimee. She ran such a positive campaign and I learned a lot from her.” 

“I told Deidre ‘I am relinquishing you from your support of me, if there is something better for you,’” Newton said. “We had been best friends in eighth grade. We hung out together a lot, and I had sleepovers at her house. We became reacquainted through politics. I am very happy for her.”

The Cox-Henderson ticket eked out a very close primary victory over former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. last summer, followed by an expected landslide win in the November general election against Democrat Chris Peterson. But by the time that second victory came, Henderson was facing different challenges.  

“My husband and I—and some other family members—were diagnosed with COVID in August, and I had to go to the emergency room a couple of times for supplemental oxygen,” Henderson said. “But I was not actually admitted to the hospital for coronavirus. Instead, I also had to undergo three back surgeries. I was in excruciating pain for several weeks. I spent election day (Nov. 3) in the hospital (at Provo’s Utah Valley Regional Medical Center).”

Henderson is doing much better now, though still not completely healed.

“I’m functioning much better, doing all the day-to-day things I need to do,” she said. “I am a bionic woman now, with hardware in my back. But I still won’t be able to bend, lift or twist until April.”

Despite those challenges, Utah’s second-ever female lieutenant governor says she’s enjoying the responsibilities of her new position. And no matter how rancorous future debates become at the state capitol, no one is expecting the former Taylorsville resident to ever smash a bottle over someone’s head again.