Janna Little Ryan was 'raised right' in a small Oklahoma town, friends and sister say

Janna Little Ryan, wife of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, has had success in Oklahoma 4-H, at prestigious universities, as a Washington lobbyist and as a “relaxed mom” in Wisconsin, some of her friends and a sister say.
by Chris Casteel Modified: September 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm •  Published: September 17, 2012

Besides practicing law, Prudence Little was involved in a range of civic activities in Madill. She was among the first members of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and was chairman of the OU Foundation.

“Pru was a fantastic lady and a great lawyer,” Brewster said.

Dan Little has served on the OU Board of Regents and is now chairman of the board of trustees for the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics.

The couple had three daughters, Janna, Dana and Molly.

Janna went to grade school in Madill and then to boarding school in Austin, Texas, before attending Wellesley.

Starting a family

Brewster assigned Janna to focus on health care when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s. “She studied it and just became extremely knowledgeable,” he said.

She also served as a liaison to a health care advisory group Brewster had formed in Oklahoma. And she was going to law school in that period. Brewster described her as “a truly down-to-earth person” who never flaunted her family's wealth. She drove an older car, he said, and dressed nicely but not extravagantly.

She met Paul Ryan when she was working as a lobbyist, sometimes on a team with Brewster's former chief of staff, Pat Raffaniello. Among their clients were United Parcel Service and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“Professionally, Janna was always prepared to provide accurate and timely information to policymakers,” Raffaniello said. “On a personal level, it was a pleasure to work with such a bright and articulate colleague.”

Janna married Paul Ryan in Oklahoma City in 2000, and Janna gave up her successful career to move to Wisconsin.

“She was ready to start a family, and I think she saw Janesville as a wonderful place to raise a family,” said Jackson, Janna's sister, also an attorney and Wellesley graduate. “She wasn't someone who sat around and worried about what she was giving up.”

The Ryans have three children: Liza, 10, Charlie, 9, and Sam, 7.

“Being a congressional spouse — that's not an official job, but there are duties that come with that,” Jackson said. “She just kind of shifted her focus.”

Not a public person

Since her husband was added to the Republican ticket, Janna Little Ryan has appeared at some campaign events, and she spoke briefly at a breakfast the week of the Republican convention in Tampa.

“It was short and sweet. She's not a public speaker. She's not a public person,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she couldn't predict what her sister's role in the campaign would be but that her support would be “strong and unwavering.”

Chapman said Janna is smart enough to realize there are people paid during campaigns to “tear down other people's lives” and that she is strong enough to stand up to it and take care of the couple's kids.

If Romney and Ryan are elected, he said, “she will be a tremendous asset to the team, and I'm sure she'll find a few issues to be involved in and do a great job.

“A lot more people than just Marshall County can be proud of her.”

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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