New Governors Spell Change - Road Sign by Road Sign
By Alex Sundby, Special to Stateline
The transition to a new governor is about more than handing over the reins of power or even the keys to the executive mansion. Sometimes it's about pesky issues, such as what to do with 4,000 boxes of salt-water taffy that carry the name of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who left office unexpectedly this year.
The ascent of nine new governors two from resignations, two from election upsets and five who won open seats brings a cascade of protocol questions. How quickly should a new governor's name be added to road signs that welcome travelers to the state? What to do with reams of leftover stationery? When can the new governor sit down and tape a video welcome message for tourists?
Changing governors comes at a cost to states, but there is no universal price tag for the work done between campaign victory speeches and inauguration addresses. While the amount of money that states earmark for transitions differs, states face many of the same delicate dilemmas.
New Jersey's surprise change of governor created a sticky situation for state tourism employees. McGreevey (D) was to have served until January 2006 but stepped down Nov. 15 after admitting to a homosexual relationship with a state employee.
Rather than pitch the boxes of promotional taffy, state workers will cover McGreevey's name with stickers naming his successor, acting Gov. Richard Codey (D). Because the work is being done in-house, the cost will be negligible, according to spokeswoman Mary Caffrey of New Jersey's Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourist Commission.
Still to be decided is the fate of $100 worth of plastic Band-Aid dispensers and cupholders covered with McGreevey's name. Those and 10,000 travel guides displaying the McGreevey family photo are stacked up in storage awaiting instructions from Codey's administration.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) took no chance of being confused with her controversial predecessor when she unexpectedly took office in July. Rell ordered her staff to recycle leftover stationery belonging to Gov. John G. Rowland (R), who resigned under threat of impeachment amid an investigation into alleged corrupt acts.
Other new governors, however, have considered it a waste to throw out perfectly usable letterhead. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) earned points for being fiscally conservative when she instructed her staff to use up outgoing Republican Gov. John Engler's stationery when she took office in January 2003, according to the Lansing State Journal. Staffers crossed out Engler's name and typed in Granholm's. The governor's order had one exception new stationery was to be used for press releases to avoid confusing the media.
Indiana Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels (R) has been checking off higher tasks on his transition's to-do list and hasn't thought much about what to do with defeated Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan's leftover stationery, according to Daniels' press secretary, Marc Lotter.
Interstate highways also present challenges for state officials when a new governor is sworn in. After Rell took the oath of office, about 80 road signs were updated throughout the Constitution State to display her name. But Connecticut tourists still will see Rowland's photo on about 90,000 vacation guides and 9,000 state maps.
Ousted New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson's (R) face will continue to greet lost visitors to the Granite State until May 2005. That's when the state Division of Travel and Tourism expects to give away its supply of more than 250,000 road maps left over from the summer and restock with new maps touting the new governor, John Lynch (D), according to tourism spokeswoman Margaret Joyce.
West Virginia Gov.-elect Joe Manchin III (D) will have to wait only a few weeks before his face appears on the state map. The state prints 75,000 maps each month. January's edition will continue to feature outgoing Gov. Bob Wise's (D) picture; Manchin's inauguration day is Jan. 17.
State tourism officials, though, plan to have Manchin record a message welcoming tourists before he is sworn in. The message plays on a touch-screen DVD program at two state welcome centers, and changing the DVD will cost $2,000, according to Caryn Gresham, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Division of Tourism.
The Mountaineer State hopes by the end of February to replace posters with the governor's photo at eight welcome centers, at a cost of $2,800, and switch governors' photos as 17 kiosks along the roadways at a cost of $500, said Division of Highways spokeswoman Carol Melling.
To be sure, repainting road signs and reprinting brochures to advertise a new governor's name may cause headaches for state bureaucracies but isn't at the top of to-do lists for gubernatorial transition teams. Money, though, is a primary concern even when some states partially pay to smooth the transfer of power.
No matter how much states pay toward transitions, winning campaigns almost always have to continue raising funds to pay off debts, hire more staff and pay bills during the transition, according to Peter Wiley, director of management consulting for the National Governors Association.
"It doesn't surprise anybody, but you're so focused [on the election] it can feel like a dash of cold water," Wiley said of additional costs imposed by a transition. "It's much more expensive than it used to be."
Of the more than 30 states that appropriate funds for governors-elect, Michigan allocates the most with $1.2 million, according to a report from the Council of State Governments. Not all states allocate a definite amount. Nevada is required to supply a "reasonable amount" to its newly elected governor. In states such as Kansas, the incoming and outgoing administrations share the transition budget to pay for costs of moving in and out of office.
Dueling transition teams for Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D) and former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) have been acting as political doppelgangers while votes are recounted in the closest election in that state's history. Other new governors elected this year are Matt Blunt (R) in Missouri, Brian Schweitzer (D) in Montana and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) in Utah.