LOUISBURG—As a politician’s wife and stay-at-home mom, Stephanie Tranel has her hands full. Stephanie, the wife of State Assemblyman Travis Tranel, spends her time campaigning with her husband, taking care of their three children, working on the farm and keeping house.
“Travis and I are high school sweethearts,” Stephanie said. “We met our junior year of high school at Wahlert Catholic in Dubuque, Iowa. We had a bunch of honors classes together and we actually met through a mutual friend.”
She said this past Christmas they celebrated their 10th anniversary of dating and they have been married for five years. Together they have three children: Evelyn, 4, Violet, 2, and Ozzy, 3 ½ months. The children are named after family members. Travis and Stephanie both had a great aunt Evelyn; Violet was Travis’ great-grandmother; and Ozzy is Travis’ grandfather who still farms with them.
“Family is very important to us,” Stephanie said.
She said they dated just over five years and she needed that time to get to know his family, which is very large.
“I wasn’t part of a large family growing up, so once you become a part of it you never want to give it up,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, with one sister.
“Travis’ interest in politics started in high school,” Stephanie said. “He was always big in debate. He didn’t really have a lot of time to do sports… but he was able to do debate. So, when we met he told me he was interested in politics and debate. I kind of played it of, you know, I wanted to be a doctor and an astronaut. But sure enough, he was really involved and he had volunteered for a lot of the bigger races in this area and kind of just caught the bug.”
Travis’ first election was in 2008, the year they got married, when he ran for State Assembly. Stephanie said she was working in Dubuque, Iowa, at the time and they didn’t really get to see much of each other while he was campaigning.
“That was the year that he was unsuccessful, but we learned a lot,” Stephanie said. “He was so disappointed that he decided he was done with politics. But then when 2010 came around, the climate was so different that we had a better shot at winning. He was asked by several people to give it another go. I couldn’t say no, so we gave it another shot and it all worked out. He couldn’t be more happy; he loves his job.”
Stephanie said she looks at politics as a family job.
“I specifically just love to get out of the house and meet people, have some adult time,” Stephanie said. “With three little kids, it’s nice to get out and talk to people. It’s actually good family time. People laugh when they see us trudging through the parade with three little ones, but we love the parades.”
Travis’ district includes all of Grant County and portions of Richland, Iowa and Lafayette counties. While campaigning, Stephanie went door-to-door within the district with her husband, which meant they had lots of time together in the car.
“He has to talk to me, then,” Stephanie said. “It’s good for us. When he’s home he’s farming or in Madison, so it’s go, go, go.”
Besides the politics and campaigning, the Tranels are busy with the family dairy farm. Travis has approximately 500 acres.
“We’re able to do it because we have such great help,” Stephanie said. “We farm with our family. There are five family farms close by. It’s really nice because we see all of the cousins and the uncles and we all work together, especially when it’s go time.”
Stephanie’s big job in the summer is to feed everybody. She puts together up to 10 lunches each day and delivers them with her kids.
“I always took some flack because I was the city girl who dated the farmer,” Stephanie said. “I always loved the outdoors. Most of our dates early on were either tractor time or milking because that’s what Travis did—he went to school and came home and he farmed. I have adapted quickly.”
Stephanie said if someone in the family gets sick, she steps in to help when she can. She said she was milking cows two weeks before giving birth to Ozzy.
“I love the idea of having the farm and raising our kids here,” Stephanie said. “We garden in the summer and the kids are out there helping me. They love to play in the dirt, they love to see the cows, they love to be in the tractor with daddy. I just like knowing that he’s around, he’s out here, he’s working. It teaches the kids a good work ethic. And we’re around family all the time, so we feel very blessed to raise the kids on the farm.”
Travis and Stephanie are raising their family in the house that Travis grew up in. His parents built another house next door.
Stephanie said both the farm and politics are year-round jobs and it takes balance.
“We’re the type of people who love to be busy and don’t like to sit around,” Stephanie said. “We have our plates full, but we enjoy it.”
Stephanie tries to teach the children while at home. She said they help her cook by washing vegetables and fruits and measuring ingredients. They help out with the housework, feed calves and work in the garden, too. She said family dinners are important in their family.
“I love to cook,” Stephanie said. “On days when Travis is home farming, we make it a priority to sit down to a meal together to talk about our day.”
Some days, if they know his meeting won’t be too long in Madison, the whole family will ride along. Stephanie takes the children to the zoo or children’s museum or finds other family activities while they wait. Living approximately 1 ½ hours from Madison, Travis is able to make it home almost every night, unless there’s a lengthy session he has to attend.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the large family, the farm hands, the support we’ve had from so many people in our community,” Stephanie said. “It’s been overwhelming how good people have been to Travis and I and our kids.”