Friday, January 4, 2013

Normal Guy, Normal Day

"I don't know if you want to drive all the way out to Utah County, but, yeah, the Governor will speak with you," Alley Isom surprises me with a "yes," to what at the time, seems like an impossible request.

Governor Gary Herbert, is seething as lawmakers in Washington appear ready to stumble awkwardly and angrily over the fiscal cliff (a term I hope we are never forced to utter again in the news media.)

Deputy Chief of Staff, Ally Isom
In what appears to be the 21st century's version of a press release, the governor unleashes on Twitter, about the leaders in D.C. calling the fiscal cliff negotiations, "unconscionable, and "lacking in leadership."

I decide to call Isom, the Governor's no-nonsense Deputy Chief of Staff, and I leave a message, "Hey Ally, I know it's 7 PM on New Year's Eve, but as you know the Governor is letting Washington have it, I was wondering if he, or someone from the office would be willing to talk about that," I click off my cell, certain I won't hear from her on this night.

Ten minutes later, after a quick chat, I'm headed to the governor's  home, "OK, here's here's his address," Isom dispassionately rattles off the numbers to his house (Unlike other governors, Gary Herbert has decided to live in his own home during his tenure)

In this age of Uber security, and in the wake of horrors like the Newtown shooting, it seems a bit surreal to me that someone is simply handing out the address to the state's top leader to me.

Governor Gary Herbert
As photographer Mike Fessler extends a light stand and anchors it's base in the stubborn, ice-glazed snow, I small talk with Eric, part of the governor's security detail.  He will sit here all night, in his black Crown Victoria, idling in the governor's driveway, scrolling Facebook on his Iphone, while country music eases out of his speakers.  Eric is one of 6 Utah Highway Patrolmen who are in charge of keeping Herbert safe.

The governor's home is large and beautiful, much like the other comfortable, spacious houses that rest on this affluent cul-de-sac.  I chuckle to myself as I recall, Isom describing his home, "It's just a normal house," she says with no irony intended, "He's just a normal guy."

After a few minutes, the governor emerges from his front door, and gingerly taps his way down the icy concrete of his driveway.  He is wearing jeans, tasseled brown loafers and a blue T-shirt covered by an official looking windbreaker, with the state seal on the right arm, and the Governor's name emblazoned over his heart.  I've seen Herbert in this coat before as he boards helicopters or all-terrain vehicles to tour parts of the state devastated by fires, or wiped out by floods.

Herbert, is uncharacteristically grim this evening, not because I am perched at the end of his street at 8;15 on a holiday, (although my presence does have a tendency to bring that out in people) but because of what he sees as a leadership disaster in the nation's capitol.

The Governor interviews with us outside his personal home
After he rants, he furrows his brow and stuffs his frigid hands into his coat pockets, and delicately dances up the driveway, "goodbye," he says without looking back, "thanks Eric," he tosses to his guard, clearly preoccupied by the unmitigated mess on the Potomac, and recedes inside his warm home, I imagine to play with his grand kids, while sipping warm cider by his stone fireplace.

Today as I thumb through my reporter's pad I see the governor's address hastily scrawled on a yellow Post it Note, on another page, the coordinates for the Vernal  Police, on yet another the address of a yogurt shop that had recently been robbed, next to it in blue ink, the words, "aggravated kidnapping, Agg assault.

Governor Herbert may not really be just a "normal guy," as his Deputy Chief of Staff would like to portray, but his address, scrawled among robberies, and beating, is, in my world, amounts to just a another normal day.

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