Expect the Unexpected: Robert and SaraCate’s journey full of surprises
by Dwain Hebda
If there’s one thing Robert and SaraCate Moery’s personal and professional lives have taught them, it’s to remain open to new and unexpected possibilities.
Take their relationship, in which they recently observed their second wedding anniversary. Even though both their mothers’ families were close friends, Robert and SaraCate didn’t know the other existed until they were upperclassmen at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
“Until my last year of college, we’d never really crossed paths or knew who each other was,” Robert said. “We had all kinds of mutual connections in the world, but we never crossed paths.”
Once introduced, the duo was surprised to discover how much they had in common, including growing up in the rural reaches of eastern Arkansas, she in Forrest City and he in Carlisle. They were both involved in the Greek system on campus and they both would have a change of heart about their course of study. Robert changed from agriculture to kinesiology, while SaraCate switched from business to advertising/PR; oddly enough, with an eye on law school.
“My freshman year of college, I had to take business law and I loved it. Didn’t do very well in it, but I loved it,” she recalled with a laugh. “I told my parents after that class, ‘I think I want to go to law school.’
“But I wanted to have a degree in something that I would enjoy in case law didn’t work out,” she added. “So, I changed from business to PR because business was not my favorite thing and PR was a better fit for me.”
The degree may have suited her as a backup plan, but was hardly needed. She’s a rising star at North Little Rock firm Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski and Calhoun, where she specializes in wills, estates and family law.
“I didn’t really see myself being a courtroom lawyer but I am, I’m in court a lot,” she said. “It’s funny, though, because I don’t care for confrontation much. I’ve just learned to separate it. It’s not personal; they’re doing their job just like I’m doing mine.”
Robert’s path from the rice fields of the Delta to managing Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s re-election campaign was more unlikely, since he never had much interest in political matters, much less took part in them. Nevertheless, he found his way into U.S. Sen. John Boozman’s office for a year after graduating college and was later recruited to Hutchinson’s gubernatorial campaign staff.
“I got connected with the governor and we talked for three or four months, and then he offered me a job,” he said. “I worked as his personal assistant for his campaign in 2014; I pretty much lived with him for about a year. And then here we are four years later. It’s a wild story.”
Following the election, Robert served the administration as a liaison for all things agriculture, natural resources, game and fish and transportation. He then took a role as deputy director of the legislative and agency affairs team, stepping into the director’s role for several months before taking the campaign manager spot.
His collaborative leadership style and communication skills mobilize an official staff of six that morphs into hundreds of grassroots volunteers, many of them young people.
“I like to incorporate everybody as part of the team,” he said. “I’ve got people on my team younger than me that have a lot of experience and I rely on them and the knowledge they bring to the table. It’s not just me calling all the shots.
“I think that’s a strength of mine, to realize I’m not always the smartest person in the room,” he added. “I do know how to use other peoples’ strengths to everybody’s advantage.”
Hours can be long in both of their worlds, so SaraCate and Robert have developed some mechanisms for staying connected. Mornings are their time to work out and share a cup of coffee during particularly hectic periods; unplugged evenings are another must when schedules allow.
“If we’re both home at night, we always make a point to sit down and eat dinner together, usually at the dinner table,” SaraCate said. “No TV, no distractions, even if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes.”
“We make time for (our marriage),” Robert added. “There are times when you do have to put the silencer on (the cellphone) and put it away and say, ‘Hey, it’s time to just relax with my wife and have some down time.’ I think we do a pretty good job of maintaining that.”