A Political Love Story

All odds were against them. She is a democrat and he is a republican, but Mary and Doug Bennett have made their marriage work since they met in Capitol Hill. They now work at SUU and couldn’t be happier with where they’re at.

Mary moved to Capitol Hill in 1987 after she graduated from college and began working. Doug moved there a year or two later. Given that she’s a democrat and he’s a republican they didn’t move in the same social circles and didn’t get to know each other for a while.

However, their offices were off the same hallway and, according to Mary, they just started running into each other and getting friendlier because of that. Doug said that “it was more sinister than that.”

He’d planned it out so that on his birthday he was standing by the bulletin board outside of the cafeteria when she walked by. Doug, not even knowing her name, asked her if she would wish him a happy birthday. Mary replied by asking him if it was even his real birthday. To prove that it was, Doug pulled out his driver’s license and showed her that it was his actual birthday. They were friendly for a year or two before they had an official date.

They just celebrated 23 years of marriage on Sept. 10. After all those years of marriage they say that republicans and democrats can stay married and they call theirs a “mixed marriage.”

Ending up in Southern Utah took quite a few years. When Michael Benson, an old friend, was becoming the new president of SUU, he asked Doug to join him at SUU and help with Government Relations and be a professor. Doug said no; they weren’t ready to leave Washington yet.

However, a few years later Doug developed some health problems and after being told that he needed cleaner, drier air he called Benson back and asked if the offer was still open. Since by that time Benson was moving to another position in Kentucky, Doug was told that it was if he wanted to live in Madison County, Kentucky. They declined that offer since they’d already found a place they loved outside of St. George in Kayenta.

Benson put him in touch with Brad Cook, the Provost at SUU. Even though there was no permanent position available, Doug started on as an adjunct professor to get on campus three years ago and loved it. He taught as an adjunct professor for two semesters before he was asked to go full time and became the Political Science Department Chair two years ago.

After working from home as a consultant for the three years they had lived here, Mary began working on campus part-time at the beginning of 2017 helping former Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Jim McDonald with a special project. During that time, she was approached about directing the Leavitt Center.

“Mary at the Leavitt Center, that was all done without my knowledge,” said Doug. “The recruitment process was secretive. They wanted Mary. And Mary came home one day and said to me, ‘Guess what? I’m the new director of the Leavitt Center.’”

She began her work there in June.

“It was unplanned and very happy the way it worked out,” said Doug.

The couple loves it here in Southern Utah. While they both enjoyed their time in Washington and “wouldn’t trade it for anything,” the slower pace and scenery are what they want in their life right now.

“Capitol Hill is a great place to be when you’re young,” said Mary. But after coming here, she said there’s no reason to have that work schedule. After taking a couple of years to get used to the pace, they’ve both adapted and feel that it’s a healthier and more enjoyable lifestyle.

Though it’s a long way from Capitol Hill, Mary and Doug enjoy the feel and the people at SUU as well as their house in Kayenta.

Doug said, “it’s been a wonderful surprise for both of us, just how much fun we’re having.” And they agree that working here together is a great place to be for this time of their lives.

Story By
Katelyn Connors