It’s no secret that Metro Councilman David and Carolyn Tandy are a politically involved couple. But you’d never guess how much their government positions played a role in pairing these two together.
With three children and hectic schedules, David and Carolyn, the district director for the office of Congressman John Yarmuth, explain how they balance work and family life while remaining a loving, strong and ambitious couple.
How did you meet?
Not surprisingly, the pair met as colleagues. Starting out as friends, they quickly realized that there was more to their relationship.
“I was a political adviser in the Democratic National Committee and was sent to Kentucky for training in 1998. The DNC has activist training around the country in preparation for elections,” Carolyn explained. “David was a participant in the training.”
“A mutual friend of both of ours introduced us at the Galt House,” David said. “At the time, though, we weren’t talking about dating or anything.”
As the director for African American Research for the DNC, Carolyn traveled frequently, often to Louisville, to help get the word out during election season. She would contact David when she was in town.
“During the course of it, we started going to fundraisers together and started having dinner as friends,” David said. “The more time we spent with each other … ”
“You see someone in a new light,” Carolyn finished.
After elections were over, they began to date long-distance.
Their first real date, explained Carolyn, happened to involve driving to Murray State for its homecoming and meeting David’s entire family.
“This was literally the first date. He took me to his grandmother’s house in Cerulean, Ky. It was serious,” Carolyn explained with a look that screamed, I was terrified. Even during the interview, she gave him grief about that first date.
How did he propose?
“We got engaged at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles,” David said.
“We’re not political at all, as you can tell,” said Carolyn, gesturing at the City Hall office in which the three of us sat.
But David’s proposal was more sentimental than anything. Because Carolyn grew up in Los Angeles and didn’t have the fondest of memories there, David wanted to create a special one that she’d never forget.
“I had this big, elaborate scheme. I told everyone in the Kentucky delegation that I was going to propose because they knew her too,” he said.
However, the plan was botched when a friend who was in charge of buying dozens and dozens of roses to fill their hotel room flaked. Instead, the proposal was a bit more casual, but just as meaningful.
“So I’m scrambling now like, ‘OK I gotta figure out something else,’ “ he said. “And I knew I had to hurry and do it the first day of the convention because everyone knew. I didn’t want them to say, ‘So, where’s the ring?’ and blow it all.”
Their hotel room still served as the proposal venue, but it went differently than David’s original plan.
“She had to go back to the room and change. She changes, shows me her outfit and says, ‘Well, what do you think?’ ” David recalled. “And I’m sitting there with the ring in my pocket. And I nonchalantly say, ‘Yeah, it looks OK. But it’s missing something. I think you need this.”
He pulled the ring out and got an interesting reaction from his soon-to-be fiancee.
“She goes, ‘Is that what I think it is?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ She says, ‘Well you need to get on a knee or something!’ ”
He took a knee and she agreed to marry him.
The craziest part of the story, though, occurred in the lobby of the hotel across the street, not only where the convention was taking place, but also where several high-profile Democrats were staying.
“We’re in the lobby and she shows her friend the ring,” David said. “Well they both start screaming, and all of a sudden the Secret Service swoops in.”
David diffused the situation by assuring the agents that “everything was cool.”
How do you make it work on a day-to-day basis?
With busy schedules that tend to change every day, the Tandys agree that it’s all about compromise, understanding and flexibility.
“We build off of each other and our strengths,” David explained.
“First and foremost, our family is a God-centered family,” Carolyn added. “So we constantly lean on God and our faith to get us through the day.”
And with three young children, “We are not for lack of anything to do in our house,” she said with a laugh. “In terms of set roles, we’ve never set roles because we’re constantly dealing with what’s going on in that moment. We try real hard to have a routine – particularly for the kids’ sake – but every day something will come up where you just have to be flexible.”
In order to maintain order, they coordinate schedules, maintain good communication and are willing to adapt in any situation.
“We try to be like ducks on water. It looks smooth on the surface, but underneath, you’re kickin’ like hell,” David said.
How do you divide up household chores?
When it comes to daily upkeep of the house and the children, the Tandys use their focus on flexibility and communication to get things done. But they do have a few set things that each likes to do.
“David’s a fabulous cook,” Carolyn said. “That tends to be the thing he does because he likes it so much and it gives him downtime.”
“She’ll generally handle getting the kids ready,” David added, who assured me that he can do hair, but not as well as his wife.
Where do you like to go when you’re out ‘n’ about?
Date night is pretty consistent for these two. They love going out to restaurants and have a passion for ethnic cuisine.
“Havana Rumba is one of our favorites. Love it. Love, Love, Love it!” Carolyn exclaimed. “My mom is from Jamaica and my dad’s from New Orleans, so we like the spice and the island flair.”
What is one thing you always do as a couple?
“We like to travel,” David said. “We go to concerts a lot. We saw Beyoncé and we saw Jay-Z during the inauguration.”
When they went to see Jay-Z, Carolyn was pregnant with their youngest son, Solomon, 2. They’re not jumping to any conclusions but, “Solomon loves Jay-Z. I mean, he really bobs his head to Jay-Z,” David said with a laugh.
“But a lot of the stuff we do tends to be family things as well,” Carolyn explained.
The focus is almost always on including the kids in any activity. Taking the kids to zoo or the park is commonplace for the couple.
“We also take a lot of day trips to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis or the aquarium in Cincinnati or the Louisville Science Center,” Carolyn said.
What is some advice you would offer couples – new or old – who desire to walk through life in tandem?
“You have to come into marriage, and life, knowing it’s not going to be perfect,” David said. “Focus on the ‘precious present’ and enjoy where you are at that time.
“Also, always think back to what attracted you to each other in the first place and always remember that.”
“My philosophy – that my cousin gave me and has really become my mantra – is ‘Don’t major in minors,’ ” Carolyn added.
“Have each other’s backs,” Carolyn said. “I’m one for loyalty. Even if there were issues between us, you would never know it because we have each other’s backs.”
“Don’t major in minors,” Carolyn reiterated.
“Don’t let other people inside your marriage,” David strongly suggested. “That includes your friends and family. The more voices that get in there, the less you focus on each other.”
April 28, 2001.
Daughters Kennedy and Avery, ages 7 and 3, and son Solomon, 2.
Russell (west of downtown Louisville)
David is the Louisville Metro councilman for District 4. Carolyn is the district director for the office of Congressman John Yarmuth.
Cats or Cards
“Cards,” Carolyn said, without question.
“But I’m a Commodore when it comes down to it,” said David, who played football for Vanderbilt University.
Category: In Tandem