Inside the Capitol

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tributes to Dee Johnson and Cory Beck

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- No word yet on the toxicology results following the mysterious death of former First Lady Dee Johnson. She was found at her Taos Ski Valley getaway under conditions that suggested a completely natural death for the vigorous 54-year-old.
An autopsy revealed nothing. Conflicting medications are thought to be a possibility, but our state crime lab runs four months behind due to serious underfunding.
Sen. Gay Kernan, a Hobbs Republican, says she expects advancing that agency will be her biggest struggle during the current legislative session.
A recent column on Dee Johnson brought a response from Ed Berry, a former president of the Governor's Mansion Foundation, urging that a plaque be placed in the expanded family quarters of the residence recognizing Dee for her leadership in expanding the embarrassingly small family area.
Since soon after it was built in the 1950s, governors have quietly remarked that that the family area was very inadequate, especially for a governor with children still at home.
But, while it hasn't been especially difficult to sell an expansion of public areas at the mansion, enlarging the family area was another matter. Governors didn't want to spend the political capital that might jeopardize a future run for office.
Gov. Toney Anaya tried. His family didn't want to move into the residence. They laughed at it being called a mansion because their nearby house was nicer.
Although both the public and private areas of the residence now look about the way Anaya had proposed, we called it Toney's Taj Mahal at the time. I remember it well, because I led the charge. Sorry about that, Toney.
Gary and Dee Johnson were the perfect couple to expand the living quarters. Gary wasn't interested in a political future and Dee knew the construction business inside and out. She oversaw design and construction of the expansion. She knew how to achieve top quality at the best price.
The state owes much to Dee Johnson for her accomplishment. We now have living quarters at the "mansion" that can make us proud. It is appropriate to acknowledge her effort even though she would never seek such recognition.
Another New Mexican about to be recognized upon his similarly tragic and unexpected death is Cory Beck, publisher of the Roswell Daily Record. Beck, 53, died on Dec. 17 of a sudden illness in Las Cruces.
He had been publisher of the Roswell paper for almost 20 years, winning numerous awards from the New Mexico Press Association and the Associated Press. He also was active in a large number of community and cultural affairs.
Prior to his death, Beck gave three explicit instructions to his wife, Dana: show up at the funeral, look great, and check into a convent. She handled the first two with ease, but her father-in-law, Bob Beck, president of the Record Publishing Co., named her as her husband's successor.
Dana worked in the Roswell office of Sen. Pete Domenici for five years. After meeting Cory in 1995, she became involved with the newspaper at increasing levels of responsibility. In 2000, she created the senior magazine Platinum, and became its editor.
During the second day of the Legislature, Gov. Bill Richardson announced that he wants to name a section of state highway after Cory Beck. He will present the request to the New Mexico Transportation Commission at its meeting on Feb. 21 and it will be acted upon in March.
Roswell has been in the news a great deal lately. In January, directors of the International UFO Museum and Research Center announced plans for a new $25 million home just down Main Street from its present location.
In December, the city announced it may build an alien theme park similar to Six Flags. And somewhat more down to earth, MainStreet Roswell announced receipt of funds for a mini-park featuring a sculpture of Robert H. Goddard, the father of rocketry.
MON, 2-05-07


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