Rhode Island’s first ‘first gentleman’ carves out new role

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — As the state’s first “first gentleman,” Andy Moffit is carving out a new role for a political spouse in Rhode Island.

Moffit says the way he can contribute is by supporting his wife and focusing on their kids. Gina Raimondo was sworn in as the state’s first female governor earlier this month.

“I recognize it as a real opportunity to set an example for first gentlemen and for men generally,” Moffit said.

Those who know the couple well say they have been a team ever since they started dating.

“He’s a part of everything she does,” said Raimondo’s sister, Marianne. “Everything.”

Some first spouses in Rhode Island have been front and center, while others have preferred to stay in the background.

Gov. Donald Carcieri’s wife, Sue, was a presence at the State House. She spoke at anti-abortion rallies, gave interviews and often attended her husband’s press conferences. Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s wife, Stephanie, rarely stepped into the public spotlight though the nurse did encourage people to get flu shots.

Moffit said he won’t set up an office in the State House but he hopes to find ways to give back to the state and celebrate the great things about it.

Moffit grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, the son of two Central Michigan University professors.

His father, Tom, says Andy has always shown determination: when they bought him a used bicycle without realizing it didn’t have brakes, he still learned to ride, and when they thought he was too young to play baseball, he signed himself up and proved he could.

Childhood friend Russ Herron remembers Moffit being interested in politics and public service from an early age. In high school, Moffit was always at ease talking to the kids of other college professors or the kids from the local Native American tribe, Herron added. They elected him class president year after year.

“Andy having found Gina and even ending up as the first gentleman of Rhode Island really doesn’t surprise any of us that know him really well,” Herron said.

Moffit taught for two years at an inner-city elementary school in Houston in the early days of the Teach For America program after graduating from the University of Michigan. He met Raimondo at Oxford University in England in 1993, when they were both studying there on scholarships.

Moffit remembers being “wowed” by Raimondo’s zest for life and confidence in a challenging academic environment.

Marianne Raimondo visited often. She said Moffit was clearly interested in her sister, but at the time, Gina was more interested in Oxford.

They dated later when they were both at Yale Law School. Classmate Cassie Motz said they clicked because they’re genuine, down-to-earth people, who don’t take themselves too seriously.

“They were a good team even back then,” she said.

At their Providence wedding in 2001, Marianne Raimondo said in her toast that marriage is about two people looking in the same direction.

“That has definitely come true for them,” she said. “They share the same ambitions and they work at it together.”

While Raimondo worked as a venture capitalist, Moffit flourished at the Boston office for management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The 45-year-old has worked there for 15 years, including seven years he spent advising large school systems, universities and others.

Now as the firm’s director of industry learning, Moffit helps develop and deliver training programs for their 10,000 consultants worldwide.

The couple decided Raimondo should run for state treasurer because they were upset over the budget cuts affecting public library hours and buses. Moffit later encouraged her to run for governor after seeing the impact she had as treasurer.

The former first gentleman of Michigan, Dan Mulhern, says the most important thing Moffit can do now is offer the emotional and spiritual support Raimondo will need as she takes on what can be an isolating job.

Mulhern, who has spoken with Moffit, said Moffit knows how important it is for him to play a larger role at home. They have two children, 10-year-old Ceci and 8-year-old Tommy.

“He’s really smart to understand that and he’ll understand it a lot better in four or eight years,” Mulhern said. “And his wife and the state will be really grateful he did that because it’ll enable her to be the best she can be as governor.”

Herron said he could see Moffit one day being the nation’s first gentleman because there are no limits on Raimondo’s political career. Marianne Raimondo said she doesn’t know where the couple will go from here.

“I expect even greater, more successful, bigger things. I don’t know what that’ll mean,” she said. “But I really do expect great things out of them as a couple.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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