Americans are obsessed with people in the spotlight: the royals, the president, celebrities. Whether we love or hate them, we’re fascinated by their lives. Why? Maybe because they’re just like us, perhaps with a few more dollars in the bank — and plenty more notoriety.
The same can be said for Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Born in Richmond and raised in Virginia Beach, the 56-year-old (as of December 9) had a strong work ethic from the start, washing dishes in a diner and aiding his family when his dad fell on hard times. He attended Rice University in Texas on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a degree in engineering. He later earned his MBA at Harvard Business School.
Love happened after his first year of grad school, when a mutual friend introduced him to his now wife of 28 years, Suzanne Youngkin (née Schulze), a Texas native and Southern Methodist University graduate. They married in 1994 — after he pulled off a proposal complete with what he calls “a scavenger hunt in reverse,” at the end of which she met him at a restaurant, where he asked her to marry him. They moved to Northern Virginia, where they raised their four kids (Grant, Anna, John, and Thomas), and he started a 25-year stint at The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. A new gig in Virginia politics came next.
Today, when the Youngkins aren’t residing at the governor’s mansion in Richmond, they make their home in the country-chic Great Falls community. Their 30-acre property houses Normandy Farm, an equine training facility founded by Suzanne — a horse lover and rider. Anna is the only other rider in the family. “It’s a mother-daughter thing,” says Ellen Walter, who had mutual friends with Suzanne in high school and worked at The Carlyle Group with the governor. But, she notes, the entire family loves animals: “They’re huge pet people.”
They have four dogs — one is Anna’s rescue — and four canaries, which Suzanne gets as each of their children leaves the “nest.” (Grant graduated from SMU in 2020; Anna graduated from Duke University last year and now attends UVA; John is a senior at the University of Notre Dame; and Thomas is in his final year of high school in Richmond.)
And, while Anna and Suzanne have horseback riding, her husband and their boys enjoy father-son basketball sessions. The whole family loves entertaining at home and spending time outdoors. “They live about a mile from Great Falls National Park and only slightly further from Riverbend Park and are able to walk to and through the parks on foot and on horseback,” says Walter, who served as a senior adviser to the governor. “Glenn works so much, so when they get to be together, it’s around food and family.”
Among their favorite restaurants? El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in Great Falls. “They have the most amazing queso with beef,” the governor tells us. “So that’s our big spot if we have a chance, as a family, to sneak out.”
You might also find them at Old Brogue Irish pub. “That’s their lives — the [Great Falls Village],” says Walter. “That’s where they hang out as a family and with all their neighbors.”
But when Youngkin wants breakfast out, he heads to McLean Family Restaurant. “If you want to get in and out of there fast, you can; if you want to sit and have a good conversation, you can.” His order: poached eggs and hash browns and an English muffin with butter on one side.
For a beverage, albeit later in the day: Virginia wine. But he won’t tell you which vineyard he likes the best. “That would be like asking which one of my children is my favorite,” the governor hedges. We can speculate that he likes the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup winner, the 2019 Unité Reserve from Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg. Or there’s the limited release of Cornus Virginicus from Barboursville Vineyards, created with the help of his wife. The Bordeaux-style blend’s name is Latin for “flowering tree of Virginia” and pays homage to the dogwood — the state flower and tree — and the first lady’s seal. He notes that they always serve Virginia wine at the Executive Mansion, and their guests consistently say they’re impressed.
The Youngkins’ roots run deep here in NoVA. Take Holy Trinity Church. They founded the nondenominational institution in their basement, with a few families, in 2013. Today, the church is in McLean (the Youngkins operate a private foundation that owns the property on which the church sits, according to The New York Times) and the family frequents it when they’re in town. During the gubernatorial campaign, they “blocked off Sunday mornings for church time,” says Walter.
Suzanne serves as the director emeritus of Meadowkirk at Delta Farm, a 358-acre property in Middleburg also owned by the Youngkins’ foundation, according to the Times. While Meadowkirk has a storied history, it’s been a nondenominational retreat since 2013, the year Suzanne came on the scene.
“She has a wonderful heart for the organization,” says Timothy Sipols, executive director and CEO of Meadowkirk. “It isn’t a reach to say she’s been Meadowkirk’s first lady.”
Meadowkirk’s pastoral setting forms the backdrop for its mission — providing retreat-focused wellness programs for faith-based groups, churches, nonprofits, and educational institutions.
Suzanne, Sipols says, has a “creative eye” for the site, from the lodgings to the amenities. And she was instrumental in developing the donation-based retreat partners program, allowing nonprofits like Vienna-based Jill’s House — which serves children with disabilities — to use its facilities at a reduced rate.
Back on the campaign trail, the Youngkins appear as approachable as they do in real life. “He’ll talk to everyone, regardless of political affiliation, where they come from, what business they’re in,” says Karina Lipsman, a Republican U.S. Congressional candidate for the 8th District as of press time. “You can absolutely tell that [he and Suzanne] are genuine. It’s rare to see that from people in the public eye.”
We’ll leave that up to you to decide — now that you’ve peeked inside the governor’s life.