Ione Horrocks: “Some Good Latter-day Saint Woman Should Step Forward”

“I had no thought of going into politics that day,” says Ione Horrocks, who served as mayor of Pocatello, Idaho, for two years, and for two terms as a member of the city council. “It hadn’t entered my head. I was very comfortable as the wife of a physician with a thriving practice and the mother of four active children. I had a home to manage, meals to cook, the washing to do, and the yard to keep. I was also Gospel Doctrine teacher in Sunday School, a Cub Scout den mother, and a regular in Parent-Teacher Association and school functions.”

“That day” refers to an occasion in September 1977 when Ione presented a special lesson to the Relief Society sisters in her stake. The subject was “The Influence of Women in the Community.”

Knowing of her interest in history and government, the stake Relief Society president had asked her to make the presentation. She accepted and really did her homework.

“It isn’t unusual for Ione to read many books when she is researching something,” says her husband, Bert. “She reads rapidly and is very thorough.”

In fact, Sister Horrocks has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English education and has published a series of articles on reading for speed and comprehension. And read she did—books, newspapers, reference works, magazines, pamphlets. Her previous experience as editor of the student newspaper at Idaho State University made the task of interviewing city officials really enjoyable. It was during one such interview that she learned of a vacancy on the city council.

The day of her Relief Society presentation came. After pointing out many ways in which women could serve in the community, Ione concluded with a challenge: “The city council elections are coming up, and some good Latter-day Saint woman should step forward and run for that seat!”

She couldn’t believe the response. She was chosen to run! She protested, but a neighbor clipped a filing petition out of the newspaper, and calls began coming in from all over town urging her to run.

“I prayed as I had never prayed before,” she remembers. Her children were all in school, but she knew there would be times when she couldn’t be home when they got there. And her husband’s unpredictable schedule meant that he was seldom there for the dinner hour. Her father lived in their home, though, and she was comforted by that. At least one adult could be present most of the time.

Then her thoughts turned to the past. Her great-grandfather was bishop when the First Ward chapel was built in Pocatello. He served in several elected offices, including the city council and the Idaho legislature. Her father had also served on the city council and was postmaster in Pocatello for thirty years.

“I knew all that, and I was grateful,” Ione says. “But never had it occurred to me that I might owe something to that heritage, too.”

Brother Horrocks was supportive. According to city council member L. Edward Brown, who is also president of the university stake in Pocatello, Bert and Ione serve as a fine example of a couple walking side by side, freely contributing wherever asked. Bert has served as bishop and high councilor, and is an outstanding Scoutmaster. He has the marvelous ability to find joy in seeing his wife excel and supports her in whatever she decides to do. He encouraged her to run.

When the answer to her prayer came, Ione knew she should run—and she also knew that she would win.

It is a custom at the Horrocks house that when a decision is to be made that will be important to the whole family, a council is held, and they only go ahead when they have the family’s support.

“We tried to tell them what it would mean, but none of us really understood the adjustments we would have to make,” recalls Ione. “But they were all anxious for me to run and supported me one hundred percent, distributing literature all over town. I thought it was a small town until I began going from door to door. Things were really hectic, but we worked hard. And when it was all over, we had won.”

Pocatello has a city manager form of government with seven council members, the mayor being chosen by the council. To her surprise, Ione was made vice-mayor right away. “I didn’t even know how to run a meeting,” she says. She learned quickly.

“I began thinking I should look to those in leadership positions in the council as a guide for my decisions. But I soon realized that was the wrong way to approach government. I found that the only way to do the job was to study each issue and make a decision based on the best information available.

“That may sound easier than it actually was. I soon found I was not conservative enough for some special-interest groups, and far too conservative for others. So during the four years I served, I found many times that it came down to a matter of deeply held convictions and, hopefully, the spirit of inspiration.

“Even so, the people on the council never made it difficult for me to be anything but just what I am.”

“I also learned something important about the people who serve the public,” she adds. “I had heard a lot about bad government and self-serving government employees. Yet the people I encountered were very dedicated. I decided that rather than look with suspicion, I should think of them as dedicated and qualified people doing a good job unless I had reason to believe otherwise.”

It was in January 1979 after a struggle between liberals and conservatives that Sister Horrocks became the compromise choice of mayor. She had been on the city council just one year and still lacked a great deal of know-how, but she decided she would just have to study more and learn what she needed to know to make wise decisions.

The mayor’s duties included being the council’s representative to the media—four radio stations, three television stations, and one newspaper. She was the person to welcome visiting dignitaries to the city and be available for ribbon cuttings and ground-breaking ceremonies. She had the enormous responsibility of making all appointments to the political boards in the city, with the approval of the council. This included the planning and zoning, parks and recreation, traffic and safety, library, and human development boards. She also worked with staff members to develop policies and procedures that were to be presented to the council, and she was on the legislative committee with the duty to lobby as a representative of Idaho cities.

“As mayor I tried to avoid programs for individual interest groups that would have to be supported by local taxpayers after the federal aid stopped,” she says. “We accepted federal funds for capital improvements such as sewers and water lines where the government and private industry could work together for the common good.”

Her schedule was demanding. During one typical month she was called to give three speeches, welcome two conventions, speak to children at two schools on the function of government, meet with seventeen groups and four individuals on specific problems, attend six work sessions with the city staff, attend five regular staff meetings, and travel out of town three days on city business.

“And,” she adds, “while I was mayor I finished my seventh and eighth years as Gospel Doctrine teacher in Sunday School.”

Naturally, this busy schedule required the cooperation of everyone at home. Ione is a slender 5 foot 9 inches, with auburn hair and blue eyes, and she loves a good joke and enjoys her husband’s gentle, continuous kidding. Yet, “when she tells you something to do,” says son Mark, “you just know you have to do it.”

Brother and Sister Horrocks are great supporters of sports for the children, and when any of the children had a game or other type of performance, at least one parent would be there—both, if they could.

As often as they could, they spent Friday nights and Saturdays at their cabin with the children. “We still love these times when the family can be together without outside pressure,” says Ione.

Then there was the problem of finding time to be alone with her husband. “When I was mayor,” Ione remembers, “our time together sometimes had to be looking at city projects or investigating problems. So Bert would tell the children at dinner, ‘Guess where we went on our date? Out to the sewage treatment plant!’—and sometimes it was really true!”

Ione first met Bert Horrocks when she was a freshman in high school and he was leader of the pep band. He had graduated and was home from a tour of duty in the navy during the Korean War when they began dating. It was Bert’s navy experience that gave him an interest in medicine.

They were married in June 1958 in the Idaho Falls Temple. Ione was a junior at Idaho State University at Pocatello and Bert was a freshman. She graduated the following year, and they moved to Salt Lake City, where Bert attended the University of Utah for the next six years.

They had three of their four children during these years. Bert went to school during the day and bounced a baby on his knee while he studied in the evenings. Ione taught night classes so they wouldn’t have to leave their children.

“We had little money,” explains Ione. “But we don’t look on that as a negative experience. We were happy and had everything we really needed. My father has asked us since why we didn’t ask him for help. Frankly, it just didn’t occur to us.”

Ione and Bert moved back to Pocatello in 1966 after Bert had completed his internship in Seattle, Washington.

“My family is very important to me,” says Ione, “and I feel strongly that my experience as a teacher has made me a better mother. I didn’t depend on the children’s teachers to teach them to read. I taught them. We were regulars at the library, and I made sure they knew the things I felt were important for them to know. Although my children have had excellent teachers, I’ve never felt it wise to leave the job of teaching them entirely to the school or the Sunday School teacher.”

She also feels strongly that her family has been strengthened because of her experiences in community service.

“Most of the days in the years I served as council member and mayor, I could go to work when the kids went to school and be home when they got home. Most nights the children and I had dinner together. But when there were late meetings or I was out of town, they were able to function on their own. They became very independent and capable of handling decisions.”

The children (Dan, then fourteen years old; Mark, thirteen; Ann, twelve; and Andrew, almost nine) learned to prepare meals, and as they became better cooks it was the rule that the first one home started preparations for dinner. They washed their own clothes and got themselves off to school when mom had an early morning meeting. They also went by themselves to piano lessons, although Ione always supervised their practice. When three of the children were taking lessons at once, she would get up at 6:00 A.M. to help the early morning practicer.

The family was on the alert to see that Andrew had his hair combed and wore a clean shirt to school, and a neighbor volunteered to take care of him after school in those rare instances when none of the family was at home.

Daniel is now twenty and is serving a mission in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mark, nineteen, is a student at Brigham Young University. Ann, seventeen, and Andrew, now fourteen, are still living at home.

How does Ione Horrocks assess her own feelings about service in local government?

“Local government is a drink of pure water, a shower, a way to dispose of our waste. It is a fire department that can quickly get to any place in town, and the paramedics who save the neighbor’s life. It is a policeman whose red light says I’m going too fast, but who also puts his life on the line to investigate alcohol-related family fights or drug abuse. It is a park with swings, a golf course, and summer softball leagues.

“In short, it is something that we do need to care a great deal about. So many of the wonderful things we take for granted are continually being threatened—even by those who would not knowingly do so. Do we pray enough for those in public office? I have a feeling that our Heavenly Father would be pleased if we did.”

And about women in community service: “Obviously I believe that Latter-day Saint women have what it takes to be leaders in the community,” she observes. “More Latter-day Saint women need to get into politics. There are things that are important to women that just won’t be considered if they are not represented. Women generally have the time to become informed and the energy to devote to community concerns. And they place a high value on good community life, family life, and life itself.

“That’s not to say that it’s all easygoing. Public servants have to develop a certain resiliency. That is, when you have prayed earnestly, studied well, and made a decision, you cannot let yourself be hurt by comments from those who think otherwise. In politics we meet many genuine, marvelous people who think quite differently than we do. A good public servant must listen carefully and respond to the truth as he sees it in any issue.

“But I suppose the important thing is that when a woman or anyone else steps forward to assume responsibilities in the community, great things can happen. She benefits, her family benefits, her friends and neighbors benefit—and the work gets done.”

[photos] Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten

[photo] Ione and Bert Horrocks jogging with two of their children, Ann and Andrew.

[photo] Sister Horrocks teaching a genealogy class in her ward.

Betty C. Hale, mother of five and a correspondent for the Idaho State Journal, is multiregional public communications council director for the Pocatello Idaho, Pocatello East, and part of the Pocatello Idaho South regions.