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Deals play host at the governors mansion
Friends gather to support Nathan Deal before his first day as Georgias 82nd governor
Gov.-elect Nathan Deal and future first lady Sandra pose for a photograph with Willette Mallard, left, and her husband Charles, who is Nathan’s uncle, during a reception at the Governor’s Mansion Sunday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Listen to "With a Servant's Heart," played at the reception because of the cancellation of the inaugural gala.

View an audio slideshow with images and sounds from the reception.

Sunday felt like a family reunion at the Governor’s Mansion.

Deals, Mallards, Woodrums and plenty of friends gathered in the ballroom to support Nathan Deal before his first day as Georgia’s 82nd governor.

The Deals held a friends and family reception at their new home on West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta, taking the time to take a picture with each guest who arrived and toured the three-floor, 30-room house.

“This is so great,” Deal said while pausing between photographs. “I’m glad the weather held out for today.”

Deal took a short trip to the Capitol to announce the cancelation of nonessential inaugural events in anticipation of the ominous winter weather headed into Georgia, and First Lady Sandra Deal informed the guests.

“Nathan had to leave and run to the Capitol, and I thought I’d come down and visit while I had the chance,” she said.

She took pictures with her children and moved around the room with elegance.

“This family reunion of sorts is so special for all of us,” she said. “It was so great to see everybody, and I hope it was great for you to see each other.”

She also introduced close family friends, including Bonnie Tanner, a former roommate who introduced her to her husband when they were in college.

“He was my blind date on a trip to the beach. She picked a good one, didn’t she?” she said, laughing with the crowd. “We met on a Thursday and then dated Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I went home and told my mom and dad that I met the man I was going to marry. It took four years, but I was determined.”

As guests entered the front door of the mansion Sunday, they followed a path that snaked through the main floor that featured a string quartet from Mercer University’s orchestra. Nine women from Sandra Deal’s prayer group at First Baptist Church in Gainesville were stationed along the tour and informed guests about the different rooms.

“I can’t get the chill bumps off my arm. The state is in wonderful hands, and I get to be a little part of it,” said Tina McDaniel, a prayer group member who stood in the marbled foyer. “We’ve worked with the Deals all the way through, and here we are. I keep pinching myself.”

In the ballroom on the basement floor, guests laughed, talked and snacked on barbecue sliders, quiches and fruit prepared by Governor’s Mansion executive chef Holly Chute.

“This is exciting and has really built up. We worked on the campaign and did a lot of shopping and politicking,” said

Barbara Lawson, another prayer group member. “We love Sandra, and she’s so much a part of our group. We’re going to miss her, and I know she’ll be busy for sure. We can’t wait to volunteer more.”

Tons of North Georgia residents poured out to show their support at the reception, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Gary Black and Billy Skaggs, Black’s incoming chief operating officer.

“It’s so exciting to have Gov.-elect Deal in the mansion, and today to have friends and family from our community here is indicative of how he will open the mansion to allow so many people to enjoy it,” Cagle said. “It’s symbolic that this is the people’s house, and he understands the role of being a statesman and being responsive to everyone.”

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