Inside the Capitol

Monday, October 31, 2011

11-2 Governor doesn't live in a mansion

110211 gov mansion

SANTA FE – This is the governor's residence, not the governor's mansion. Thus decreed our new governor Susana Martinez.
Actually residence isn't a bad idea. As mansions go, it is small potatoes. The only thing grand about New Mexico's residence is its parking lot.
Not being a mansion isn't, particularly unusual. Most states don't get carried away with their governor's residences.
If Gov. Martinez were appointed by royalty, she would live in a mansion. New Mexico's governors for its first 250 years were appointed by a king and they lived in what was called a palace. Actually the Palace of the Governors wasn't very palatial but it was better than any other house in the village.
Our first U.S. territorial governors, appointed by the president, lived in the Palace of the Governors. After 1889, they were allowed to live in private residences but they used the Palace as their office.
In 1907, after 60 years of trying to become a state, the territorial legislature decided it would have to start looking more like the rest of the United States if it ever was going to be admitted to the Union.
So they built a capitol with a dome on it and a large Victorian governor's mansion. It worked. But once we were safely in the Union, state buildings headed back toward pueblo and Spanish territorial styles. The dome came off the capitol and the mansion was torn down.
In 1951, a tract of land in the hills a mile north of the plaza was donated for a new residence and a modest Spanish territorial home was built for our governors.
The concept was that the home should fit in with the surrounding area and not be ostentatious. After all, the residence houses an elected official who should not be lording it over his or her constituents.
Former Gov. Bruce King, in his book "Cowboy in the Roundhouse," told of visiting the governor's residence in the early 1960s and going home to his small farm house to tell his wife Alice that he wanted to be governor someday so they could live in such a nice house.
Ten years later, the Kings moved into that house. When King's four-year term ended and they moved back to the ranch at Stanley, the Kings built themselves a very nice home.
But some other governors haven't been as impressed with the residence. It was reported that Gov. Toney Anaya's family, who lived nearby, didn't want to move in because it wasn't nearly as nice as their own home. Anaya sought some major improvements to the residence but they were ridiculed as Toney's Taj Mahal.
The living quarters always have been cramped, especially for families with children. Although several expansions and improvements have been made to the public areas of the mansion over the years, governors never particularly wanted to ask lawmakers for improvements to the private family area.
But former Gov. Gary Johnson did future governors a favor. He said since he had no future political ambitions, he wouldn't mind doing a little begging. He got money for the private quarters. His wife Dee, who had run a very successful construction business, oversaw the project.
It is common throughout the country for governor's residences to be called mansions even if they aren't. Some states provide no residence for the governor. In others, the "mansion" is a tract home. New Mexico falls somewhere in the middle but is generally agreed to be the most representative of its state's architecture.
Gov. Martinez is not the first New Mexico governor to insist on using residence instead of mansion. Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca also felt strongly that residence was the proper term. By the end of their third term, the Kings often referred to the residence as "the house."
Gov. Bill Richardson preferred the term "mansion." But he also liked to call it "the people's house" meaning that it was open to the people much more than under previous governor Gary Johnson.
Richardson claimed to have hosted 170 events, involving over 7,000 guests during his first year in office.


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