Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10-19 Much-Needed Repairs at Gov's Mansion

101912 Gov's Mansion

SANTA FE – The New Mexico governor's mansion currently is undergoing some much-needed and overdue repairs. Reportedly the kitchen is being upgraded, sagging floors are being repaired and wiring problems throughout the structure are being corrected.
Every 10 years or so, governors have turned their attention to spiffing up the residence to look presentable to the many visitors and guests who frequent the building. It may be just coincidence but it has been Republican governors who mainly have tended to the needs of the buildings and grounds of the home overlooking Santa Fe.
Major remodelings were done during the administrations of Republicans Gary Johnson and Garrey Carruthers. In 1985, Gov. Toney Anaya told the Legislature that the house had fallen into such disrepair that the state should look at building a new mansion in the hilly, mostly uninhabited northwest quadrant of Santa Fe. The city offered some property.
But the Legislature didn't buy the proposal at all. Economic conditions were terrible and the home was only 30-years old. Besides, Anaya's relations with the Legislature were so bad that building the governor a bigger house was unthinkable.
Gov. Carruthers followed Anaya. Early in his term he invited lawmakers and the media to tour the mansion. His request was for a complete evaluation of the property. It seemed to be a reasonable proposal. Most of us agreed to take a look at the results.
Those results were pretty dismal. It appeared the state might be ahead to tear the building down and start over. But then Jacqueline Bancroft Spencer, of Carrizozo, offered to buy the state a mansion.
Spencer, a Dow Jones heiress, was interested in state government. She had married into the family of our state's first governor, William McDonald, of White Oaks.
A few years earlier Mary Maytag had built an 11,500 square foot mansion in the hills just northwest of Santa Fe. Spencer offered to buy the mansion and give it to the state. The house was twice the size of the state's so-called mansion. It was termed an unbelievable deal by many.
Carruthers cleverly didn't commit. He wanted to see what developed. It turned out that there were possible legal problems if the mansion were moved from the 30 acres that had been donated by the city of Santa Fe, the School of American Research and a property development company formed by former Gov. John Dempsey.
As expected, political problems also arose with the Legislature. Carruthers was a popular governor but he would have had to use a tremendous amount of political capital to do any convincing. And the neighbors of the Maytag mansion went ballistic. They had built in a secluded area and it was going to stay that way.
Gov. Carruthers announced he wasn't going to take the deal. Lawmakers breathed a sigh of relief. Economic conditions had improved and the Legislature was contemplating a complete remodel of its 20-year old capitol. Refusing the governor's request for a partial remodel of his 33-year-old house would be difficult to justify politically. So it was done.
Even though the private space for the first family was cramped, no governor had been willing to endure the grief necessary to enlarge the private quarters. But 10 years after Carruthers' major improvements, Gov. Johnson went for it. He said he knew he would get static but he also knew many home improvement projects were necessary – plus more space for his two high school kids.
Lawmakers grumbled but they knew the Johnson's were in the construction business and they could ensure the state was getting a good deal. So it was done.
Toward the end of the Johnson administration, the residence was opened to public tours. The tours still are being conducted from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month when the Legislature is not in session.
In December, Christmas tours will be conducted on the first and second Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.


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