Monday, January 01, 2007

Notes From The Meet-And-Greet

Elizabeth Benjamin Capitol Confidential

My goal today was to try and make you feel you were "actually" there...thru photos and first hand reports and is Liz's eye witness commentary........enjoy..........andy

The people’s governor opened the doors to the people’s house (as he likes to call it) at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday following his inauguration and started shaking hands with the first wave of some 1,200 individuals who had won the right to pass through the mansion and greet the new governor in a lottery.
A new group of people was allowed in every half hour. Six hundred slots were given out; everyone was allowed to bring a guest.
Opening the mansion to the public on New Year’s Day was a longstanding tradition, according to the mansion staff, but it petered out sometime during the Cuomo administration, in part due to the state’s fiscal difficulties.
Spitzer stood for about two hours staight and smiled so much he said his face hurt. He repeated some variation of the same mantra to each guest: “Thank you. Good to see you. Thanks for coming. Take a look around. It’s your house.”
The governor was wearing a pinstriped suit he had made for the inauguration at Hickey Freeman in Rochester. He started out greeting people alone. His wife, Silda Wall, who was wearing the same red-and-black coat she wore for the swearing-in ceremony (designed by Neil Bieff), joined him at about 2:48 p.m.
Spitzer was also wearing a tie that came from
O’Connell’s Clothing in Buffalo (through Vineyard Vines, made by a UNITE in NY) and was designed especially for this occasion. It’s red with a Statue of Liberty and sun motif. There’s a banner at the base of the statue, flanked on both sides by small apples, which reads: “Day One. 1/1/07.” Spitzer said Silda Wall came up with the design.
Lt. Gov. David Paterson is wearing a blue version of the same tie.
There’s a similar version, which says “New York State” instead of “Day One,” that people can buy on the O’Connell’s Web site. There’s also a commemorative scarf for women with the same statue and sun design. A version that says “Thank You, Gov. and Mrs. Eliot Spitzer” was given to female members of the senior staff. Men got the tie.
The mansion was set up with dividers of the type used by banks for crowd control. The meet-and-greet took place under the watchful eye of no fewer than four members of Spitzer’s security detail, who seemed a little nervous about all the human contact.

Most people thanked Spitzer and told him they were happy he’s here in Albany. Many brought him things to sign – mostly inauguration programs. One man, Gary Hayes of Schoharie, brought a baseball that had been signed by every governor since Malcolm Wilson. Another man, Bill Hilliker, who is the head of a unionized print shop in Buffalo who made the Day One T-shirts and hats from this morning’s Washington Park run, brought Spitzer a sweatshirt embroidered with the state seal.
Ronald K. Ratchford, a 60-year-old Schenectady resident, brought the cover of a book on the mansion that had been signed by six governors: Harriman, Rockefeller, Wilson, Carey, Cuomo, Pataki. Spitzer added his name to the list.
Vincent Rigosu, 65, who said grew up in an apartment over Lombardo’s restaurant (around the corner and down the block from the mansion on Madison Avenue) told Spitzer he was born in Albany in 1941 and passed the mansion many times, but never before had the opportunity to get so far inside.
“Take a look around,” Spitzer said. “I’d never been this far until yesterday.”
Shortly after 3 p.m., the Spitzers’ dogs (Jesse, a Bichon frise, and James, a Wheaton terrier) caused a stir when they got loose and came downstairs. They were corralled by a staffer. But Jesse, a small fluffy white dog, escaped again and returned to the first floor.
“They’re unhappy that they can’t hang out with Mom and Dad,” one staffer said, as another hurriedly scooped by the errant dog and spirited it away.
Just before the meet-and-greet began, the Spitzers took their pets for a walk out behind the mansion to make up for the fact that they had to be cooped up in an unfamiliar house.Music was provided until 3:30 p.m. by the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam string quartet: Gregory Sheehan (20, violin), Ciara Picard (20, violin), Bennett Mahler (19, viola), Andrew Kromholz (19, cello).
Most of the people who came through the mansion were “real” (ie: not elected officials, operatives or lobbyists). I did spot three Capitol regulars: Sierra Club lobbyist John Stouffer, state Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, and Assemblyman John “Jack” McEneny, D-Albany.

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