Former Governors join Hickenlooper at the Mansion

It was a generational revival at the Governor’s Mansion on Nov. 1 when four former and current governors, and their families, gathered to celebrate the stately Executive Residence at East Eighth Avenue and Logan Street in Denver. Political history was on display as members of Colorado’s gubernatorial royalty from over the years returned to the mansion for the 2nd Century Celebration, an effort to raise money for the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.

Bob McNichols, whose father, Gov. Steve McNichols, was the first to occupy the mansion, represented the 1960s era on this festive evening, with 11-year-old Teddy Hickenlooper, son of Colorado’s current governor, serving as a more modern day examplar. Interspersed throughout the crowd of about 200 were other family members and the governors themselves: Roy Romer, Bill Owens, Bill Ritter, and of course current Gov. John Hickenlooper, swapping stories about their tenures at the mansion and encouraging guests to help preserve the historic building, which was built in 1908, taken over by the state in 1960, and officially called the Executive Residence at the Boettcher Mansion ever since.

Four Colorado Governors pose for a photo at the 2nd Century Celebration of “Colorado’s Home” on Nov. 1: Former Governors Bill Ritter, Democrat, 2007-2011, and Bill Owens, Republican, 1999-2007; Gov. John Hickenlooper, Democrat, 2011-present; and former Gov. Roy Romer, 1987-1999. Former Dick Lamm, Democrat, who served as Governor from 1975-1987, was out of the country at the time of this event.

“Every First Family who has lived in this home since 1960 when the Boettcher Foundation graciously gave the home to the State of Colorado is represented here this evening,” said Cindy Starks, executive director of the GRPF.

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, left, and Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman,
R-Colo. Springs, smile for the camera at the 2nd Century Celebration sponsored by the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.
Photo by Pam Cress/The Colorado Statesman

“And it’s for a wonderful cause. Our job is to preserve this home for the people of Colorado and to open the doors to the people of Colorado,” Starks explained.

Former First Lady Bea Romer chats with Nicole Bopp, executive assistant at the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, during the 2nd Century Celebration Nov. 1.

“We see about 3,000 to 5,000 elementary school children here for standard- based Colorado history, and we also welcome another 25,000 people for events and fundraising events. It works hard for the State of Colorado.”

Charlie Monfort, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies, Roxane White, chief of staff to Gov. John Hickenlooper, and former Gov. Bill Owens enjoy the festivities of the evening.

The Residence is also used to showcase the state’s rich cultural and civic heritage.

Jerry and Sharon Linhart and Debbie Jessup and Tim Schultz enjoy the reception at the Governor’s Residence.

“You’ll hear many of our governors say, ‘You know, I made that deal in the Palm Room,’” Starks related.

Bob McNichols, left, Judi Gervasini, Steve Johnson and Jane McNichols at the Executive Residence on Nov. 1.
Photo by Pam Cress/The Colorado Statesman

The governors shared their own personal anecdotes and historical tidbits with the guests — many of them contributors and sponsors of the GRPF — but top billing for the successful event went to the former First Ladies and Starks.

Former Gov. Roy Romer greets Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman as her husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CD 6, looks on.

Frances Owens spearheaded the effort to restore the Residence during the Owens administrations by raising private funds for the lower gardens and for keeping the Carriage House from being demolished. First Lady Jeannie Ritter kept the efforts going by establishing the non-profit Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, which has completed about $500,000 in upgrades and additions to the home since 2008.

Cyndy Everett Marsh, Joe Blake and Tom Marsh are among the guests at the well attended event.

“I had a committee of women that all joined together to raise money for the official china that we’ll be eating on this evening,” Frances Owens pointed out before some of the guests moved to the Carriage House for a special six-course dinner prepared by well known local chefs.

Christine Woolsey, chief communications & marketing officer at SCL Health System, and Molly Broeren, secretary of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, are all smiles.

“And I’m just grateful that when Jeannie and Bill came in, Jeannie was willing and able to then start the preservation fund, because this house gets very, very little money from the state,” Owens added. “It’s Colorado’s home but we as Coloradans need to support this home.”

Ed Nichols, president of History Colorado, chats with Bernie Buescher, the immediate past chair of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.

Many of the improvements were on display that night. The well-attended reception, for instance, was held in the grand white marbled Palm Room on the first floor of the Residence. When Gov. Romer arrived that night, he noticed that the large fountain which used to be situated in the celebrated venue during his administration was no longer there, and he wondered aloud about its absence. Gov. Owens, during his remarks that evening, provided a clue.

Former First Lady Frances Owens, left, has raised private funds to restore the Residence’s interior and gardens and to save the Carriage House from demolition. Former First Lady Jeannie Ritter, right, has ensured the ongoing preservation through the establishment of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.

“Frances will remember well that fountain that sat right here, and frankly, it ruined the whole room,” Owens explained as he talked about the monstrous water fixture which used to occupy the middle of the Palm Room.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter and his successor in 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper, enjoy talking about some of the fun experiences they’ve had as governor of Colorado.

“So one of the first things that we did was we said, ‘We want to move the fountain, we want to put it in the basement,’ and some of the folks who have an ownership interest in the Boettcher Foundation said, ‘No, you can’t, it’s permanent, you can’t move it.’

“And I said, ‘I’m the governor, I can move it!”

The evening was full of other memories, as well. When Governor Romer was in office, for instance, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Romer had a big laugh when they had to rent a carpet because the other carpet in the Residence was so faded.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recalled hearing about how Gov. Romer brought the teachers who were on strike to the Mansion and telling them that they wouldn’t be able to leave until they figured out a solution.

“We sold our house when we were elected and this was our home,” Romer recalled. The fact that these furnishings survived my family! But I want to say something serious, if I can... the word ‘home’ is really on my mind. And a home is a very important symbol for all of us; it’s family, it roots a whole lot of our values. This is a Colorado home and I want us to think not just of a governor’s mansion or governor’s house, but a home, because it’s what we need in these days to pull us together. I’m tremendously worried about our society fragmenting in a way that we can’t get the life we want to live, and a home is a very important thing and that’s what we’re celebrating tonight.”

Gov. Owens also shared some of his recollections of the Residence.

“As some of the earlier speakers have mentioned, this really is the people’s home, this is where we introduce Colorado to the world, is through these halls and in this very building. And I’m so proud of what the first ladies have done and so many of you have done to help make this so special,” Owens said.

“I'll never forget when Roy and Bea showed Frances and myself through your home, which has since become our home. Our kids are here tonight. Monica, who has helped organize this event, Mark and Brett both grew up in this home, I’ve got sisters here tonight, Owens continued.

“When we were taking over [the Residence] we were talking to our friend, General Andy Love. Andy had been a teenager in this house and I’m afraid that he told our son, Mark, the secret on how to get out of the second floor!”

Gov. Ritter added his own personal memories of the Residence.

“This is a very special place, for a lot of reasons for me. This is where Governor Romer interviewed me and then appointed me to the District Attorney of Denver,” Ritter recalled.

“Jeannie and I really moved into this understanding the sense of history that was already here... Bob McNichols is here and I think Bob is the person who probably lived here the longest ago. Thank you for being here and for your family taking it over,” Ritter said.

“But if you have children and you live here, you live in trepidation,” Ritter admitted.

“It was like the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News can say anything about you, but you were constantly worried about your kids... and so I’m in Washington D.C. and I’m testifying for a Senate committee and it was not an easy go... there were some tough questions, and I came out and my communication rep said, ‘You won’t believe this.’ My son was of legal age but they had a picture of him downstairs drinking out of the hose of a keg... the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post reporter didn’t understand how you clear the foam out of the keg. I appreciated having to explain whether the governor’s residence was being turned into a frat house,” Ritter good naturedly lamented.

Even young Teddy Hickenlooper got into the reminiscing act. “I remember when dad was elected governor and we were... thinking whether we could live here or not,” the budding politician began.

“I had three concerns about the place... I was… What was I, seven? Eight, maybe eight. Yeah, eight, just eight. I thought, number one, too big. Number two, too fancy, and number three, as the previous governors have said, I might break something.”

“We all have our memories here and I remember the first year I was governor right before Christmas, right before the holidays we had an event, which we do every year, for the families of National Guard members that are overseas,” Hickenlooper related when it was his turn.

“... That event is so moving and there are children, there are spouses and the guards are not here or in a number of cases the guards are women so we have a husband and a couple of kids. And we have gifts for them in front of the tree, again the volunteer work that decorates this place for Christmas, I'm sure you’ve all seen it, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings on earth. And to see the families of our military personnel embraced and surrounded by gifts and presents and warmth in the holidays when their spouses aren’t there, was one of the warmest things and most touching things I’ve ever experienced.

“And again, we’ve all got our memories. You’ve all got your memories. Thank you for making sure we have the investments to keep those memories in a place that really is as beautiful and well kept up as it deserves,” Colorado’s 42nd governor concluded.

Monica Owens, who spent part of her childhood in the Executive Residence, poses with Gov. John Hickenlooper. Monica’s public affairs firm coordinated the special event on Nov. 1.
Dick and Jeanne Saunders, two of the founding partners of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.
Photo by Pam Cress/The Colorado Statesman

Former Gov. Roy Romer, flanked by Denver attorney Steve Farber, left, and Arlene Hirschfeld, right, enjoys the recollections of his fellow Colorado governors during the 2nd Century Celebration at the Governor’s Residence.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, attorney Steve Farber and concert promoter Chuck Morris of AEG Live were attendees at the special event.

Two former governors named Bill — Ritter and Owens — display their bipartisan cameraderie as they greet each other at the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund’s 2nd Century Celebration.
Former Gov. Roy Romer shares his memories about serving as governor and living in the Governor’s Residence as Gov. John Hickenlooper listens appreciatively.

Mary Kay Lowe, sister of former Gov. Bill Owens, with Sandra Solin, founder of Capitol Solutions, and Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association.
Executive Director of GRPF Cindy Starks shares the spotlight with Teddy Hickenlooper, the young son of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper shares a moment with son Teddy at the 2nd Century Celebration on Nov. 1.
Gov. Hickenlooper listens as son Teddy talks about his family’s considerations about moving into the Executive Residence back in 2011 when Hickenlooper first took office.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and John Sie, founder and former chairman of Starz Entertainment Group LLC and president of the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, obviously are enjoying the evening at the Governor’s Residence on Nov. 1.
CC Dick, Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, and Eric Dick are supporters of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.

Tarrance and Kelly Owens Tschatschula, brother-in-law and sister of former Gov. Bill Owens, enjoy the evening.
Tally Ritter, daughter of former Gov. Bill and Jeannie Ritter, with Patricia McConathy, founding member of GRPF.

Tim Schultz, president of the Boettcher Foundation, and Arlene Hirschfeld, civic and community leader.
Tom, Kate and Becky Love Kourlis with her brother, Major General Andy Love and Virginia Morrison Love make it a family affair on this evening.

Monica Owens, Jeannie Ritter and Abe Ritter are all former residents of the Governor’s Mansion at East Eighth Avenue and Logan Street in Denver.
Dana Bright and Brett Owens, youngest son of former Gov. Bill and Frances Owens.

R.D. Sewald, Shannon Fender and Josh Hanfling, all of Sewald Hanfling Public Affairs, were out in force.
Cindy Starks, executive director of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, and Dr. Cile Chavez at the 2nd Century Celebration.
Photo by Pam Cress/The Colorado Statesman

Former Gov. Bill Ritter poses with GRPF board member Jean Galloway and Dr. Ben Galloway at the Nov. 1 event.
Barry Hirschfeld and Gov. John Hickenlooper converse at the cocktail party prior to the dinner.

Matt Wasserman, incoming board chair of the GRPF, and Robert Sobel smile for the camera.
Photo by Pam Cress/The Colorado Statesman
Former Gov. Bill Owens with daughter Monica at the Governor’s Residence on Nov. 1.
Photo by Keith Bobo/The Colorado Statesman

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, with Democrat Collon Kennedy with the Denver firm of Colorado Communiqué.
Preservation and policy consultant Ann Pritzlaff, Marie Patterson, chair of the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, and former First Lady Frances Owens, all have worked hard at preserving and caring for the historic Residence.
Photo by Keith Bobo/The Colorado Statesman
Guests were treated to an exquisite six-course dinner prepared by locally acclaimed chefs and served on the official state china. The meal began with Colorado Fall vegetable variety from 2012-13 Colorado Chef of the Year Jonathan St. Peter of Western Colorado Community College; a second course consisted of cornmeal crusted Colorado trout with hominy, sweet potatoes, baby green beans with crispy pork, leek slaw and whole grain Remoulade prepared by Cherry Hills Country Club Chef Craig Peterson; the third course featured roast pheasant with chanterelle mushrooms and potatoes prepared by Ed Janos of Cook’s Fresh Market; it was followed by a fourth course consisting of Colorado lamb loin and shoulder with Manchego-saffron risotto, Medjool dates, acorn squash and micro mustard greens by chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja. Travis Smith of Bistro Colorado served up smoked salmon with pickled beet remoulade on a toasted baguette for the fifth course; and the sixth course was a dessert of Rooftop Honey cake with orange blossom creme brulee, Bergamot gel, cinnamon corn streusel, raspberry beignet and Rooftop Honey foam by David Lewis, executive pastry chef at the Brown Palace Hotel.
Photo by Keith Bobo/The Colorado Statesman