Policymaker Profile: Getting to know Melissa Garff Ballard

Utah Policy regularly profiles policymakers from across the state. In this edition we profile Utah Rep. Ballard, Republican, District 20. 

What is your occupation? CEO of six kids and two dogs, and professional musician.

What is your educational background? Bachelor and Masters in Music, Piano Performance from the University of Utah.

Where did you grow up? Blame me for the population growth. I grew up in Bountiful and live two miles from my childhood home. Three of my children are married and all are living close to home
Can you describe a fond memory? When I was young, I used to sit at my Dad’s legislative desk and connect every paperclip into a chain as I listened to floor debates and voting. I’d wander the halls of the Capitol, view displays, and sit in the Gallery. There are four House members I remember the most: Frank Pignanelli, Nolan Karras, Rob Bishop, and Lyle Hillyard. I remember knocking on doors for my Dad to give out fliers or encourage them to host one of his campaign signs. As some voters grilled me on issues, I remember needing to ask my Dad where he stood on issues and understand why he took positions on specific issues. One of my fondest memories was sitting at his Speaker desk next to the gavel as he started the legislative session. My Dad was so busy, but never too busy to be my Dad.

Why politics? I am passionate about preserving the values that make Utah strong. After living out of the state and country for six years, I value our balanced budget and collaborative government. We have a strong economy because of the many who have come before us and built this great community. I only hope to make it stronger for the generations to come.

What was your first job? I started teaching piano at the age of 14 and managed a successful piano studio for more than 23 years.

What lessons were taught to you by your mother? My mother taught me how to work hard, contribute to my community, love fine art and music, think deeply, serve willingly, and love generously.

What songs are on your favorite playlist? Favorite music albums: My first published album! I am the pianist with Alex Marshall in “David Park Plays Fritz Kreisler”. Other favorites: “Yo Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone”; Nathan Pacheco’s “Higher; Josh Wright’s self-titled album “Josh Wright”; Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird”; Motab’s “This is the Christ”; Itzhak Perlman’s “Cinema Serenade”, and David Archuleta’s “Winter in the Air”.

What is your personal motto? “Whatever you are, be a good one.” — Abraham Lincoln

What is your favorite retreat? Lake Powell is my haven. Perfect day? Waterskiing until I’m exhausted, then waterskiing again!

What is your favorite book? Most memorable books I’ve read: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” “Life and Death in Shanghai,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Song of the Lark,” “The Savior in Kirtland,” “The Peacegiver,” “The Lincoln Hypothesis,” “Three Cups of Tea.”

What is your indulgence or guilty pleasure? Speaking in a British accent, gardening, dark chocolate cherries, chocolate-covered frozen raspberries, the treadmill, and British movies.

Who do you admire most in the world? I admire many people. One person that stands out is The Iron Lady! I was a teen living in England when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. I watched her stand up to a room full of men, promoting sound conservative policy. I admired her collaborative relationship with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbechev when the world didn’t think it was possible. She visited the Utah Capitol building for lunch in 1996 and my Dad invited me to be his companion. She is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever met. This was an experience of a lifetime.

A small insight into my psych: I love fishing and riding horses. I gutted my first elk on my 21st birthday. I love getting my boots dirty.

I like serving in the Legislature because: The Utah Legislature is collaborative with entities from all across the state. I appreciate the proactive approach that permeates conversation and action.

Anything else you’d like to share: I love how the Utah constitution requires responsibility to educate all Utahns. Education is the differentiating factor. As we focus on educating our community every family is strengthened, and generations are changed.