Mindi Davidson was "quite nervous" at the thought of meeting Sarah Palin on Friday night, but she wasn't daunted long.
"Once you start talking to her, it's like talking to someone that you've known forever," Davidson said.
Sharing the head table at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, Davidson found she has a lot in common with Palin, despite her being a national Republican icon, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate.
Before Palin took command of the packed Salina Bicentennial Center arena -- with about 6,000 in attendance -- she engaged in "mainly just family" talk with Davidson, the marketing officer and human resources administrator at First Bank Kansas in Salina. She was at the head table with her husband, Todd Davidson, an attorney with Hampton and Royce law offices in Salina. Todd is chairman-elect of the chamber board.
Mindi Davidson sat next to Palin's 8-year-old daughter, Piper, one of Palin's five children.
The Davidsons have three youngsters.
"We compared kid stories," Mindi said. "She's a very down-to-earth person, very easy to talk to."
A spunky child
Piper was "spunky ... kind of like I would imagine the governor would be like at that age," said Kendra Neuschafer, a Salina teacher who flanked Palin at the table.
"Neither one of us ate our food. We talked pretty much the whole time. I've always admired her, and to hold a normal conversation with her was thrilling to me," Neuschafer said of Palin.
A third-grader, Piper drew Kendra Neuschafer a picture and autographed it for Neuschafer's third-grade class at Meadowlark Ridge Elementary School in Salina.
Kendra's husband, Daran Neuschafer, owner of an American Family Insurance agency in Salina, is past chairman of the chamber board of directors.
Few were able to visit much with Palin, including those at a "very quick" pre-banquet reception, Mindi Davidson said.
Mindi learned there's not much difference between Palin the star and Palin the person.
"She is flat-out Sarah Palin. What you see is what you get with her," Davidson said.
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