The Wednesday deadline for offers to be submitted to purchase and move the current North Dakota Governor’s Mansion has passed. And nobody was interested. As a result, the 57-year old 10,000 square foot home will be demolished.
In 2015 the North Dakota Legislature approved the construction of a new 13,700 foot Governor’s Mansion– to the tune of $5 million dollars. $4 million of that budget will come from the Capitol Grounds Building Fund. This fund originated from the inception of the state in 1889 as a means from the federal government of our maintaining the Capitol grounds in perpetuity. The remaining $1 million will come from private donations.
The issue of building a new Governor’s Mansion was not a new one. From 2009 until it passed, multiple proposals had come through the Legislature recommending a new home for the Governor. In 2013, Governor Jack Dalrymple actually testified in opposition to a bill proposing the construction of a new Mansion. But arguments of the current home being “outdated” – together with reports of lack of handicap accessibility, security issues, lead paint, mold, and asbestos – finally won out in 2015.
One of the arguments touted over the years was the importance of having a place where North Dakota’s “First Family” could “entertain” dignitaries from around the world. A place where the people could be proud of the Governor’s Mansion– even from the street. Especially since this is “the house of the people”.
While I understand the importance of the Governor and the First Family representing the people of North Dakota to our visitors, I can’t help but wonder if a $5 million home wasn’t a bit overboard?
To me, there’s a more important question at hand here than whether we have “adequate” facilities to entertain dignitaries. Does a structure such as this exacerbate and perpetuate an already existing disconnect that is perceived by many between “the people” and their elected leaders– in this case the Governor?
The best leaders – and yes, even politicians – are those that can relate to and are close to those they are representing. Now please, don’t take my comments as suggesting the First Family should take up residence in a double wide at some trailer park somewhere. But are the lavish accommodations of a $5 million home really a necessity to relay a positive image of North Dakota to our visitors? Was the difference between a modest home and a $5 million mansion really the deal breaker in how others view our state? If so, is that our problem or theirs?
Admittedly, as the Governor’s Mansion nears completion, much of this may now be a moot point. But we should remember this… the image of greatness in North Dakota can be found in her people. $5 million Mansion or not, I hope no North Dakota Governor will ever forget that. In addition to living in “the people’s house”, they are also the people’s Governor– not a King or Queen to be crowned as some sort of royalty that entertains other royalty from around the globe.
***Note: Reports are that the current Governor’s Mansion will be demolished next month following completion of the new residence.