Sunday, June 18, 2006

Security For Our Governor

Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette has a story today discussing the security detail for Gov. Mitch Daniels and how "the only person who doesn't seem concerned about Daniels' safety . . . Daniels himself." She writes about Daniels' reluctance to be accompanied by a security detail:

“I probably operate with less security than any governor I’ve met,” Daniels said. “It was a very big adjustment for our family. I blame myself for being a little bit of a problem for a while.”

He concedes that he would regularly tell those on the 12-person detail that he needed to run to the hardware store or take a motorcycle ride without their supervision.

“But I rather quickly … realized that was just not right. That they have a job to do and if something happened to me they’d get blamed,” Daniels said. “I’ve tried to be much better about enabling them to do their job.”

Kelly contrasts Daniels' relationship with his security detail and that of former Gov. Joe Kernan (D). Kernan owned a condominium just down the hallway from my own home in the Lockerbie Glove Company for nearly 8 years. When he became governor upon O'Bannon's death, he continued to live in his condo for several months while he awaited repairs to the official residence on Meridian Street. Kelly writes of this period:

Mary Downes, chief of staff for former Gov. Joe Kernan, said when he first took over the office after Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s death, there was a period of time when Kernan and first lady Maggie stayed in their trendy downtown Indianapolis condo.

For security purposes, the state police occupied a condo just down the hall from Kernan – and also near Downes’ own home.

When he was still Lt. Governor, very few people in my building were aware who Kernan was. Most of my neighbors were surprised to learn who he was when he became governor. Kelly's story describes Kernan's condo as being "trendy." It actually was quite dated and anything but trendy, but we'll lay that one aside. Her story mentions his wife, Maggie, who I had not seen once in our building at any time during the prior 7 years he had lived there until he became governor. Kernan, on the other hand, I ran into on an almost daily basis during the week. I always found him to be an extremely friendly, unassuming person. His chief of staff Mary Downes' condo was positioned next to the elevator between my condo and the governor's. This was unusually convenient for Kernan, and it was not at all unusual to see professional interaction between he and Downes at all hours of the day.

The arrival of his security detail upon his ascension to the governor's office had quite an effect on his neighbors, including me. I was unable to open the door to my condo to pick up my newspaper in the morning without a state police officer watching me from the opposite end of the hallway. Grabbing my newspaper before I was fully clothed ended very quickly. Even when you stumbled back home late at night on a weekend, a member of his security detail would be awake watching every move you made after you got off the elevator.

As strong as their presence was, I often thought how easily it would have been for anyone living in the building to cause harm to him had they so desired, although I don't think anyone living in my building posed a security risk to him. As inconvenient as their presence sometimes was, I actually missed them a little after Kernan moved to the official residence. You certainly could sleep easily at night knowing they were just a few steps down the hallway.


Doug said...

I was a stronger supporter of Joe Kernan than I was of Frank O'Bannon simply because of how friendly Kernan on the times I interacted with him while he was Lt. Governor -- this pretty much exclusively consisted of small talk while waiting for the elevator at the State House. Probably not an ideal way to cast a vote, but there you have it.

(My one interaction with Gov. O'Bannon was to round the corner while he and a couple others were coming the other way. He politely said, "hello." I was just a bit surprised and could only muster a somewhat impolite, "hey.")

Gary R. Welsh said...

I hear you Doug. Kernan used to stop in the neighborhood pubs dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt (he looked a little more authentic than Daniels in that dress if you know what I mean) in the evenings. Again, he never wanted to draw attention to himself. He had his security detail sit several tables away, and he never seemed to be bothered by people approaching him. On the other hand, people seldom did because he blended in with the crowd so well people hardly noticed he was there.

Anonymous said...

Your implication is that Kernan and Downes' maintained more than just a professional relationship.
Becoming a tabloid style gossipmonger is unbecoming...

Gary R. Welsh said...

Not hardly anonymous 6:30--I specifically said "professional interaction" and nothing other than that it is intended. People who are closer to the situation than you would understand exactly what I was saying. You are the one who is choosing to read something into it that is quite clearly not said.

Gary R. Welsh said...

As to hiw wife Maggie, let me explain that she had a full-time job in South Bend and continued to live there while he was Lt. Governor--that is why I never saw her. He returned home to S.B. on weekends. After he became Governor, she moved to Indianapolis to serve in her role as Indiana's First Lady.

Anonymous said...

“This was unusually convenient for Kernan, and it was not at all unusual to see professional interaction between he and Downes at all hours of the day.”

I did not say you ‘said’ as much; I said that you ‘implied’ as much. A reasonable person reading what you wrote, in full, could easily have reach the same conclusion. Excluding, of course, those to whom you were speaking to in code! OMGGTIAGO

About his wife Maggie, her full-time job, when exactly she moved and stuff— again, not so much impressed or diverted.