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Utah's Second Gentleman 

Getting to know Gabe Henderson, spouse of Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.

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A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Utah’s ‘second gentleman,’ Gabe Henderson, moved to Utah to study at Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Deidre, who would become Utah’s lieutenant governor. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Utah’s ‘second gentleman,’ Gabe Henderson, moved to Utah to study at Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Deidre, who would become Utah’s lieutenant governor.

In 1975, Utah created the office of lieutenant governor, replacing the secretary of state as first in the line of gubernatorial succession. And in 1993, the late Olene Walker became Utah's first female lieutenant governor, ahead of eventually becoming the state's first—and so far, only—female governor between 2003 and 2005.

Walker's career was one of many firsts for the state, including her significant role in establishing Utah's Rainy Day funds, which set budget reserves aside in good economic times for use during bad ones. And in the grand tradition of political marriages, the Walker administration is also notable for giving Utah its first second gentleman and first first gentleman, in the form of businessman Myron Walker, who passed away in 2018 and who is said to have preferred "First Lad" to the stuffier, polysyllabic "gentleman" title.

It took 15 years after the Walkers left the Governor's Mansion for Utah to get its second second gentleman. The 2020 election saw the victory of Republican Gov. Spencer Cox and his lieutenant governor, Deidre Henderson, who had previously served two terms in the state Senate. Henderson's husband, Gabe, a Utah transplant, is now the proud bearer of the dormant, only-used-once title "second gentleman."

City Weekly caught up with Gabe Henderson to chat about his background and interests, his experience meeting and marrying the highest-ranking woman in state government (who recently completed her bachelor's degree on top of her official duties) and his status as the relatively undefined second gentleman of Utah.

Responses were received via email and edited for length and clarity.

City Weekly: Where are you from and what brought you to Utah?
Gabe Henderson: Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, I am a third-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I moved to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, where I met Deidre.

Later, we moved to North Carolina so that I could attend physical therapy school. Eventually, we decided that Utah was the best place to raise our kids, and so we moved back to Spanish Fork.

CW: What's your profession? And how do you view your public role?
GH: I am a physical therapist by trade. We own a company called Mobile Outpatient Physical Therapy, which contracts with home health agencies and provides outpatient house calls for seniors. I would say my profession has shaped my public role as second gentleman, not the inverse.

My primary responsibilities are to provide for my family and create a space for Deidre to excel. I participate in state events as often as possible, but I hope Utahns understand that sometimes I can't.

CW: Tell us about meeting your wife and realizing she could be 'the one.'
GH: We met in French class at Brigham Young University. On the second day of class, I sat down behind Deidre and she turned around and introduced herself. "Hi, I'm Deidre," she said. "What's your name?" I told her my name, and she said she had a cousin named Gabe. I didn't quite know how to reply, so I just said, "Cool," and she turned back around.

Later, the teacher tasked us with finding a partner. We were told to speak French with them outside of class. Not knowing anyone, I quickly asked Deidre, and she said, "Sure."

When we met at the library, Deidre was dressed in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, no makeup, glasses and a ponytail. Immediately, I thought that she was so funny. I didn't know she was an actress, but she kept doing a French accent. I was so charmed.

After about 30 or 40 minutes, we went our separate ways, and I walked over to the Wilkinson Center. I set my stuff down at an empty table, left for food and when I came back Deidre was sitting across from me. I was convinced she followed me. She will argue that her stuff was there first.

In French class, we were also told to see a French film. I asked her to see a film with me. I then asked her if she would get food with me first, and she paused, putting her finger on her chin to think. She asked to go home and change, and when I went to pick her up, I hardly recognized her. I remember thinking to myself, "I just hit the jackpot!"

I was a latchkey kid growing up, and my etiquette ... was not great. Later at dinner, I remember a look she gave me. I must have been chewing with my mouth open, I thought. And I was. I immediately apologized and bought myself a second chance.

CW: How have you as a couple changed over time?
GH: When I first met Deidre, she was very straight-laced. At the same time, she had a beautiful wholesomeness to her, which, when combined with her clever sense of humor, made her totally captivating. While Deidre's basics haven't changed in the years since, she has become very self-aware and mindful about the world around us.

When you combine her experience as a mom, state senator, nontraditional college student and lieutenant governor, you get someone who really has a sense for how things work.

At the same time, I've changed because of her experiences. My eyes have been opened to the obstacles that women in leadership encounter on a regular basis—too often, men don't see these obstacles.

CW: Where do you like to dine and search for things to do in Salt Lake?
GH: If you take price out of the equation, a couple of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City are Valter's Osteria on Broadway and Current Fish & Oyster. I'm also a big fan of The Pie Pizzeria.

For entertainment, my family loves musical theater. The Eccles Theater brings incredible shows to Utah that otherwise we would have missed.

Of course, I really enjoy visiting Utah's national parks. For years, we traveled outside of Utah to see the sites. But now we've decided that Utah staycations deliver some of the most breathtaking views anywhere in the world.

I'm also a huge fan of Real Salt Lake.

CW: Are there any public figures whom you draw inspiration from?
GH: I mean this when I say that I draw my inspiration from Deidre. I have always admired the way she navigates sensitive issues and brings all the stakeholders to the table. She assembles every point of view and finds workable solutions.

I used to tell people that if you ever disagree with something she supports or does, just ask her why. She will explain her position in a way that will help you fully understand her perspective. By the end, even if you still disagree with her, you will value her perspective.

CW: When was a moment that you were particularly proud of your spouse?
GH: I am proud of Deidre every day. Forced to choose, I was immensely proud of her on the day she gave her inaugural speech at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins. I was so proud that—when I held the Bible during her oath of office—my hands were shaking.

CW: What's it like being the second gentleman? Does being a man ever come up against the 'normal' way of doing things?
GH: It is a privilege to be the second gentleman. My role hasn't surprised me nearly as much as Deidre has impressed me. She works so hard and really gets things done for Utah. I am grateful that Gov. Spencer Cox sees her value.

As for my title, I think the moment we box in this position is the moment we lose progress for women.

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