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Joan Stylianos' The Heart of Nashua: Sen. Kelly Ayotte is exactly where she wants to be

June 06. 2016 10:37PM

As Donald Trump inches closer to the GOP's nomination for president, the buzz continues about his choice of a running mate. Since 53 percent of the voting population is female, some believe he would do well to settle on a woman with distinction.

Nashua's hometown girl and New Hampshire’s U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a name that keeps popping up among political pundits as a superb VP pick.

So, I asked her the question: If GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump asked you to be his running mate, would you consider?

"No,” she said. “I am focused on serving the people of New Hampshire in the Senate and working hard for them and for our state.”

Sen. Ayotte filed papers for reelection last week at the State House with her husband Joe, daughter Katherine and son Jacob by her side. She said she loves her job.

Ayotte, who is well-liked on Capitol Hill, serves on the Armed Services, Budget, Commerce, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. For many of us who look up to the political figures representing us, we sometimes forget that they are more than their positions and titles. Like a lot of us, they have challenges, joys, hopes, ambitions, worries and sometimes tragedies.

Ayotte beams when talking about her family, and her rock is definitely her husband. She and Joe got married on Sept. 2, 2001, and when the Sept. 11 attacks happened, they were on their honeymoon. Joe was serving in the National Guard, but was supposed to become a commercial airline pilot.

It wasn’t more than a few months after the couple exchanged vows that he was deployed to fly combat missions to Iraq.

“Before Joe left, we had been expecting a child. And while he was gone, I had a miscarriage. It was very hard for me, but also incredibly difficult for him since we were so far apart. This time helped me understand just how difficult it is when your loved one is deployed and away from home. There are joys and losses that we experience that they’re not there for, and so many moments when you wish they were with you. Though it was very disappointing, this experience also helped me appreciate the gift of life — which is even more precious to us now, having two wonderful children. I’m so grateful today to have Joe by my side, and thankful for my kids Kate and Jake and for our family.”

When times get tough, she's reminded of this little gem: “Brush the dirt off and get back in the game. That’s something my husband says to me all the time.”

From the few questions I asked Ayotte, I found her to be grounded, decent and open about her life. Her favorite television show is the CBS drama “Blue Bloods.” That’s the one starring Tom Selleck about a multi-generational family of police officers dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Personally, I was hoping she’d have said “The Real Housewives of New York City,” so I could feel better about some of the nonsense I enjoy viewing.

Being an influential and prominent female voice is certainly rewarding but not always easy for the women serving in our nation’s capitol. For a long time, those spaces were dominated by men. There have only been 46 women in the United States Senate since the establishment of that body in 1789. Female senators bring a heightened level of civility to the Senate, and by increasing their numbers they increase their power.

Ayotte passes on to her daughter the principles of integrity and responsibility and teamwork.

“I want Kate to have even better opportunities than I did growing up, and I tell her that as often as I can. I try to teach her the value of hard work and perseverance, and I think one of the most important things she can learn is how to be an independent thinker.”

Of course, there's no place like home, and Kelly and Joe enjoy the beauty and goodness that Nashua offers for raising a family here.

"I love Mine Falls Park — I run there in the mornings and take our kids hiking there when we can. My kids Kate and Jake also play soccer and baseball at the fields nearby, so it’s certainly a special place for us.”

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at

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