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Gov.-elect moves into mansion

Deal celebrates his first night in new home by writing speeches

POSTED: January 6, 2011 11:53 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Gov.-elect Nathan Deal hauls his belongings into the Governor's Mansion Thursday.

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The Governor's Mansion was ready for the Deals to arrive Thursday afternoon, with all the furniture in place and everything squeaky clean.

The only things missing? The Deals' favorite recliners.

"We brought the recliners, so we're in business," Deal said with a laugh. "Those chairs inside looked straight up. I didn't try them out yet."

The Deals and the governor-elect's personal assistant Tom Willis drove through the West Paces Ferry Road gate in a black Dodge Charger, followed by an Adams Transfer and Storage truck and more helping hands in a new black Chevrolet Tahoe.

"We're not bringing too much. It's already furnished, and we're looking forward to getting our stuff loaded in," Deal said after he got out of the car and opened his wife Sandra's door. "It's an exciting experience. I told one of my staffers this morning that this is one of those days we've been waiting for."

The mansion is a three-story, 30-room Greek Revival style home built in 1967 that sits on about 18 acres of land. Designed by Georgia architect Thomas Bradbury, it officially opened on Jan. 1, 1968, for former Gov. Lester Maddox.

The home, which covers 24,000 square feet and boasts 30 Doric columns around the porches, feels like a museum with endless detailed lamps, ceiling moldings and curtains.

The main floor, complete with a marbled foyer, Georgia state seal and grand staircase, features two sitting rooms, a formal office, a formal dining room, a small dining room and a large kitchen. The second floor contains seven bedrooms and the Deals' personal office. The bottom floor holds a large ballroom with a piano and paintings of past governors.

The home includes an elevator and books and paintings from one of what is considered the finest Federal Period collections in the nation, which were acquired by a 70-member fine arts committee when the mansion was constructed.

"(Sandra) put more in here than I thought," Deal said with a smile as he pulled boxes out of the Charger's trunk to carry into the house. The couple brought sandwiches from Gainesville's Inn Between The Delictsn to eat for their first meal in the new home.

"It's going to take some getting used to having extra people in the house all the time, but we'll adjust. A house is a house," Sandra Deal said as she started to unload.

"I brought a lot of papers with me, including articles to put in scrapbooks. Of course a woman takes far more when she moves, and sometimes it's easier to take everything and decide later what you need. We brought memorabilia from his mother to make it homey, and we hope it will become home for us very soon."

Tonight's celebration in the new home? Writing speeches.

"I've got to work on speeches, and that's not uncommon for me. We've lived that kind of public life," Deal said. "We always joke about the fact that when Mary Emily was delivered, I had to write speeches for the National Jaycee speaking competition, and Sandra was telling me to go home and write as she was coming out of anesthesia."

After unpacking the trunk of the Charger, the Deals took a few minutes to rest before getting back to work.

"This is a great opportunity, though it's a little confining. You can't go anywhere without somebody with you, which takes a little getting used to having as part of your daily regimen," Deal said.

"It's a very beautiful facility here that the state of Georgia owns. It is the people's house, and we will treat it that way."

As the family unpacked, executive chef Holly Chute was busy at work, already preparing the couple's first dinner - pork loin tenderloin, sweet potatoes and asparagus.

Chute began working at the mansion when George Busbee became governor in 1975 and left for a period during Joel Frank Harris' tenure of 1983-1991 before returning again.

"I've watched how the preferences have changed over time. Busbee really enjoyed Southern food with fried chicken and peas," said Chute, who is writing a book about how to make healthy cooking interesting. "I think Nathan will be a meat and potatoes kind of guy who enjoys simple and healthy food."

When each new governor moves in, she asks the family to fill out a spreadsheet and then hones in on their favorites as she get to know them.

"I like to send lunch with the governor, too, because even when he goes to lunch meetings, sometimes he doesn't get a chance to eat," she said.

"This is the best job. You get to see a different side of the governor than the staff sees at the Capitol because he's relaxed. That's our job. When he comes home, he needs to feel at home."

The kitchen features a mix of residential and commercial features, which helps the state's first family feel comfortable but also lets Chute create and coordinate large meals.

"Some people have approached me to ask the governor for things, but I always say it's off limits. You become a part of the family when you spend four to eight years with them," she said.

"I would never take advantage of that. It's emotional to say goodbye when they move out. You create lifelong friendships, and I still talk to all the families."

As the Atlanta neighborhood welcomes new neighbors, some Gainesville residents had to wave farewell to theirs Thursday morning.

"We all walked up to the house two nights ago. You talk about the definition of mixed emotion," said Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield.

"We're losing the best next-door neighbor, but it's time to share him with the rest of Georgia. Today we walked across the field to the Deals' house for the last time, and we're going to miss them, but we're hopeful for Georgia."

 



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