The Governor's Residence in Lansing in 2005. Photo from Detroit Free Press
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - First-time officeholder and political outsider Gov.-elect Rick Snyder may be going to Lansing.
But he isn't moving to Lansing.
Snyder will become the first governor not to live in the executive residence since it was donated to the state in 1969, and will commute to work from his home outside Ann Arbor. He has a daughter who just entered ninth grade, and he doesn't want to disrupt his family.
The switch will require some strategic planning, however, especially by the Michigan State Police, who will provide security for the governor and his family. Snyder acknowledged earlier this week that there will be costs associated with his decision -- since the Lansing residence will be maintained and used for other purposes.
Snyder, a multimillionaire who self-financed much of his campaign for governor, said he'll factor the costs in when he makes a decision on whether to accept one of the other perks of office, its $177,000 annual salary.
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He's going to be spending a lot of time in the car after Jan. 1, having chosen to remain in his home outside Ann Arbor instead of moving into the state's official executive residence in Lansing.
According to MapQuest, the commute will come in at just under 70 minutes each way, assuming traffic is moving freely (good luck with that; the most direct route is up notoriously congested U.S. 23 between Ann Arbor and I-96).
Snyder said he doesn't have anything against the governor's residence, which lies just south of the Capitol in one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. Bill Nowling, spokesman for the Snyder transition office, said the Lansing house will be maintained and used for other functions, including entertaining and ceremonial events.
But most of its occupants during the last four decades probably would agree that it's better suited to ceremony than sleeping. In fact, the Lansing home -- donated by a local businessman in 1969 after the state constitution was amended to require Michigan to provide an official residence to its chief executive -- was barely livable eight years ago when Gov. Jennifer Granholm was elected.
It underwent a $2.5-million renovation and remodeling to make it more family friendly in 2003, with Granholm for a time occupying a spare room during the week while the rest of her family stayed at the governor's summer residence on Mackinac Island. It also got about $500,000 in exterior improvements and landscaping in 2005 (all either donated or paid for with money from a private foundation).
But taxpayers do cover maintenance costs, estimated at about $40,000 a year. That doesn't include the cost of staff, including a chef and groundskeeper. Nowling said the Lansing house will continue to be maintained, but likely with fewer staff. He said plans for installing state staff, if any, at Snyder's Ann Arbor home haven't been finalized.
Nowling said the Snyder administration would seek ways to offset costs associated with the decision.
One expense that can't be avoided is security for the governor and his family provided by the Michigan State Police. The Lansing residence has extensive security systems and an MSP facility on-site. Nowling said a security analysis is under way at the Ann Arbor home, but it is not known what alterations will have to be made. He and state police declined to discuss security in detail.
Not everyone is pleased with Snyder's decision. Richard McLellan, a Lansing attorney who chaired a foundation that raised money for the executive residence in the 1990s, said the constitutional requirement was added to "enhance the capital city as the seat of government... and increase the dignity of the office."
"It's not up to any one person to reject it. The constitution doesn't say, 'The state shall maintain a reception hall for the governor's use.' It says, 'The state shall maintain an executive residence.'"
McLellan said he doesn't expect the public to fret much.
"If he somehow manages to figure out how to get the state going again, and everybody has a job, they sure as heck aren't going to worry about where he lives."
By DAWSON BELL - Free Press Lansing Bureau