"I grew up in a family of public servants, at a young age I saw that you can really make a difference," Carnahan said.
Carnahan is part of the fifth generation of her family to be involved in public service.
Carnahan's father, Mel Carnahan, was elected governor of Missouri in 1993. He held the position until he died in a plane crash in 2000. His wife and Robin Carnahan's mother, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to fill the U.S.Senate seat that Mel Carnahan had won posthumously. Carnahan's brother Russ Carnahan serves in the U.S. House for Missouri's third district.
Tony Wyche, who worked on Mel Carnahan's 1996 re-election campaign, said Carnahan's family instilled in her the real meaning of public service.
"They taught her, you're not going there to serve yourself, you are going there to serve the people," Wyche said.
Carnahan first got statewide attention when, as the governor's daughter, she headed one of the organizations in the successful campaign to defeat statewide voter approval of a concealed weapon's proposal on the 2000 ballot.
Carnahan won her first bid for elected office in the 2004 Secretary of State race by a five-percentage-point spread. She ran against the first women House speaker in Missouri -- Rep. Catherine Hanaway who now is the U.S. prosecutor for eastern Missouri.
Before running for office, Carnahan practiced business law at the St. Louis firm of Thompson & Mitchell. She also served as an executive at Export-Inport Bank of the United States.
In 2005, Carnahan was selected as a "true rising star" of American politics by the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan political think tank.
"She's actually changed the office," Wyche said. "Her goal was to get past the partisan nonsense we see so often coming out of there."
Since becoming Treasurer, Carnahan has focused on improving customer service, ensuring fair elections and protecting consumers, according to her biography on the Secretary of State Web site.
"She is somebody who has the unique ability to grasp policy and also drill down and see the people they affect," Wyche said.
When asked about hobbies, Carnahan sighed and said, "I wish I could remember free time."
Carnahan still runs the 7,000 acre cattle farm near Rolla that her brother, Randy Carnahan, began 25 years ago. Randy was the pilot of the plane which crashed in 2000 -- killing both he and his dad.
"I love to ride the horses and go out and work the cattle," Carnahan said.
Carnahan is an avid runner and has completed 5 marathons. She said she also enjoys rafting on Missouri's rivers.
"They are unparalleled to anywhere else in the world," Carnahan said.