Julie Vande Hoef went to Washington, D.C., in 2003, with the idea of landing a job in government and taking those lessons back to an Iowa classroom. She made it back to Iowa, but not as a teacher.

These days, she steeps herself in policy issues surrounding agriculture, natural resources, financial services, insurance, cultural affairs and trade, and forwards that information to Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Branstad also was governor while Vande Hoef was growing up on her family’s dairy and row crop farm in Jackson County. She is proud of the fact that their farming operation survived the farm crisis of the early 1980s.

Government work has been a central part of Vande Hoef’s life since she went to Washington D.C. more than a decade ago. She went to work for Congressman Jim Leach as a legislative assistant, and she met her future husband, Dustin, who was an aide to Sen. Charles Grassley. He now is press secretary for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

The Vande Hoefs returned to Iowa in 2006, and Julie went to work as director of government affairs for Policy Works LLC.

She joined Branstad’s staff when he was sworn into office in January 2011.

Vande Hoef “works extremely well under high pressure and stressful situations,” Branstad said in a Forty under 40 nominating letter.

One stressful situation came when she was sent to Iraq to help women and minorities understand democracy. Although she didn’t feel her life was in danger, she was required to wear a bulletproof vest.

If she needs to relax, Vande Hoef sits down at the sewing machine. For Halloween, she made chef’s outfits for herself and Dustin. Son Tyson, 2, was a lobster.

Reasons she’s a Forty:

• No. 1 for Vande Hoef is that she is a mother. That’s good enough for us.

• Led planning on protocol efforts for the official visit to Iowa of China Vice President Xi Jinping

• Represented the United States and former Congressman Jim Leach at a United Nations International Energy Forum in Brussels

• Former member of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s government affairs committee

• Keynote instructor at seminar on democracy that was sponsored by the U.S. State Department in Erbil, Iraq