Special to South Florida Times
She is the child of Haitian immigrants. She is the first black, female mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. She is a Mormon. She is a Republican who just won a primary for a congressional seat in the campaign for Utah's fourth congressional district. She is a wife, mother of three and an avid runner.
She is Ludmya “Mia” Bourdeau Love and a victory in November would make her the first black Republican congresswoman in history, the first black representative for Utah in Congress and the first black, female member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) elected to Congress.
“The history I would make is not lost on me,” Love said in an interview with South Florida Times on Monday. “But that is not what it’s about for me. It’s about the fact that I took a city that was near bankruptcy and put it back on its feet. It now has the best bond rating. For me, this is all about fiscal discipline, not overspending. It’s about lowering taxes. It’s about leaving a country in good shape for our children.’’
Marvin Dejean, a consultant with a strategic business consulting firm in South Florida, and a well-known and active member of the Haitian-American community here, had never heard of Love until he was contacted by South Florida Times. He looked her up online and called back to say, “She is so Obama-esque. Whether she wins or not, that is not a name one will forget and I am sure she will continue to make her mark. I was so thrilled to read about her I started tweeting about her.’’ His tweet: “If you still think the world hasn’t shifted overnight, take a look @MiaLove Love4utah.com. She reminds me why I am a Republican.”
Love served as a city councilwoman in Saratoga Springs, a small town in Utah, for two terms. She and fellow council members cut expenses and reduced the city’s debt to $779,000 from $3.5 million. Her leadership and her ability to make and follow through with tough decisions during a difficult time for Saratoga Springs led to her being elected mayor. As mayor she has reduced residential property taxes and Saratoga Springs now boasts an AA+ rating from Standard & Poors, the highest rating for a city of its size.
A Haitian-American upbringing can be credited for Love’s drive and hard-work attitude. She was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to parents who emigrated from Haiti with $10 in their pockets. Her mother worked as a nurse and also cleaned houses. Her father held several jobs to help support the family, including being a janitor and driving a school bus.
“They came here looking for more opportunities and the American dream and they taught me that I had to work hard to fulfill that dream,” she said, “Because of them I have a great appreciation for what this country has to offer and I recognize that some of these things have been taken away from hard workers and I want to help give these things back.
“We, as Americans, including black Americans and Caribbean Americans, are capable and smart. I don’t like the idea of the government viewing us as needing handouts. We all need the chance to show that we can work for what we want, that we are all hard-working Americans no matter what our background.’’
Love credits her parents with teaching her to work hard for what she wanted. Her father told her never to take handouts and to always give back. After moving to the United States and Brooklyn in 1973, they relocated to Connecticut in 1980, when she was 5. She had two elder siblings who were born in Haiti and it was after moving to Connecticut that her parents brought them to the U.S.
Love graduated from the University of Hartford with a degree in fine arts. She worked as a Continental Airlines flight attendant right after college and before moving to Utah. Then, she worked as a French-speaking agent at a computer software company, and in marketing at another company.
It was after leaving college that Mia Bordeau decided to go to Utah. “I went for a six-month visit,’’ she said. “I wanted to see the mountains.’’ It was there that she decided to set her roommate up with a young man, Jason Love, whom she briefly met at a LDS event in Connecticut. “We were unpacking and putting the apartment together and I called him to see if he would help us and to set him up with my roommate,’’ she said. “Jason and I became good friends and the relationship blossomed and we have been together for 14 years,’’ she said.
She was raised a Catholic but said nothing really resonated with her. “I attended a LDS service and the bishop said that men must love their wives the way Jesus loved his church … and I really liked that,’’ she said. She agreed to take more lessons on the faith from the missionaries working in Connecticut, and she converted shortly thereafter.
Asked if her religion would affect her role as a congresswoman, Love replied, “The LDS church believes in (free) agency. While there are guidelines to follow if you are a member of this church, you have the freedom of personal choice,’’ she said. “It’s my religion and I hold it dear. … I teach it to my children in my home. But it’s private. Does it show who I am, morally? Absolutely. Am I pro-life? Yes. And, here in Utah, especially, I think it is important that people know who I am morally.”
But, she added, “It’s not my focus. My focus is the economy. It’s keeping gas prices down so people can afford to fill up their cars and go to work. It’s tax simplification. It’s pushing fiscal discipline and not overspending. It’s lowering taxes.’’
Love said she is aware that to some her race matters. She was called a “novelty’’ by one Utah politician. “But being a politician is not about what I look like,’’ she said. “It’s about what I want to do and what I can do. I believe in a limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility.”
And, with 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates showing that less than 50 percent of Utah’s population are women and 1.3 percent are black, it would seem that Love got the votes because of her work.
Daily Kos, a Democrat-leaning website, has attacked Love as “one of only two African Americans living in Utah not currently playing for the (Utah) Jazz (basketball team).” If anyone has a problem with Love being a black woman, “it’s their problem,’’ she said, “not mine.’’ She gives the same answer to those who question her choice as a black woman to be a Republican. “Many people seem to forget that the GOP was originally formed to end slavery,’’ she said.
A BETTER PLACE
Love said she spends her free time with her family and she loves to jog. “My sister lives in Utah and she helps me out a lot and is Number 2 Mommy to my kids,” she said. “I keep in touch with my brother and I used to talk to my mom every day before the campaigning started but I still talk to her often.”
Her husband, a training director at a software company, is very supportive, especially when it comes to taking care of the kids, she said. They try to keep the media away from their two daughters, who are 12 and 10, and their son, 5. But, she added, “They are excited about the possibility of being able to go to Washington in the summers.
“And they realize that I am working on making this country a better place and on leaving them a place where they, too, can pursue their American Dream.’’
Photo: Courtesy of Ludmya Love
Ludmya ‘Mia’ Bourdeau Love