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November 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Recently, Judy Baker and free time have barely been speaking to each other. After all, she has three children — ages 12, 15 and 18. Her husband, John, is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church, where Judy helps with Sunday School, missions and youth ministries.
For Judy, being busy is just a part of life. On top of her duties as a supermom, she founded and operates healthcare consulting firm Cura Healthsystems Solutions, is an adjunct professor of managerial economics at Columbia College and is a vice-chairman of the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. Oh, and Judy just won the local election for state representative in the 25th District, previously Vicky Riback Wilson’s seat. The district includes the MU campus and most of downtown Columbia.
Then again, Judy and free time are good friends in some ways because Judy’s work is something she values like other people value bowling, stamp collecting or napping. Judy becomes energized and motivated by connection with other people and personal reflection she experiences throughout her day.
“Stress isn’t necessarily having too much to do,” she says. “Stress is not being energized about the work you’re trying to do. Campaigning is probably more stressful for me than it will be for me to get in there and do the work.”
This is hardly surprising because the campaign trail has been rife with unexpected events. Earlier this year Judy, a Democrat, was disqualified for allegedly failing to file personal finance disclosure forms before the April 20 deadline. She filed the paperwork on time, but the Missouri Ethics Commission mistakenly printed her name as one of three candidates who didn’t file the forms. After that, the original Republican candidate for the district, Joel Jeffries, dropped out of the race. When the new Republican candidate, Bob Northup, joined the race six weeks before the election, the campaign heated up considerably.
Baker says her days feel much less stressful since she won the seat. “I feel really energized to actually start working and doing the job I’ve been talking about for 10 months,” she says.
Judy might have more to do than the average person, but that doesn’t keep her from spending time away from the office.
A large part of Judy’s life is her family. “We’re incredibly busy, and being with my children is a wonderful time for me,” she says. She and her family enjoy floating on the Missouri River. Judy says this brings them closer to each other, to nature and to God.
During the campaign Judy had little free time, but somehow in her hectic political schedule, she had several Friday evenings off. “John and I would be together and have a nice Friday night dinner we’d fix ourselves and rent a movie,” she says. “That was really nice.”
John Baker says gourmet cooking is a hobby he and his wife enjoy. “I am the king of sauces and desserts,” he says. “She would be the leader in the entrees and side dishes. And I do all the grilling.”
He says his wife has always been good at managing stress. “She’s quite long-suffering, quite patient,” he says. “It’s one of her gifts.”
With all the time involved in campaigning, Judy hasn’t been able to indulge in one of her favorite ways to relax: gardening. Her garden usually includes tomatoes, bell peppers, daisies and her favorite, snapdragons.
Although she was born in Columbia, Judy’s father joined the military shortly after she was born and moved the family 10 times within six states. She says after gardening in all these places, she’s “come to really appreciate Missouri soil,” which yields the highest-quality produce she’s ever grown herself.
“I have a good sense of my place in the world when I garden,” she says. “When your hands are in the dirt and you’re producing something, working with God to bring something up and nurture something along, it’s very rewarding. That connection with the earth is very important to me.”
When Judy isn’t gardening, she likes to sit down with something to read, whether it’s political, biographical or fictional.
Judy says she is hard to classify psychologically. Tests usually say she is both a very social person and a very quiet person. She enjoys discussing all the issues, so her political work refreshes her as she invests her time and energy. She says she’s looking forward to Jan. 5, when she gets to start her new job.