Governor answers chef, water questions

By Ned Cantwell

Gov. Bill Richardson does not, as this column alleged a few weeks ago, sit around all day eating Cheez-its. That was ugly, mean, and just plain wrong.
Gov. Richardson sits around all day eating potato chips.
No, not really. The governor doesn’t sit around all day at all. He works like a dog, and I get that straight from Billy Sparks, the governor’s press guy.
For two weeks running I accused Sparks of refusing to answer my calls because he was too busy chatting up the folks at FOX and CNN. Not true, a cordial Billy said when I finally got his attention. The New Mexico press comes first before national media, he pledged. Well, umm, OK.
So, Billy, tell us about this $64,000 personal chef on Gov. Bill’s payroll. Did this guy come from France? What’s his specialty?
Billy says the governor will most often order up a big plate of enchiladas, but the press spokesman claims ignorance about the chef’s resume.
So why the personal chef? Gov. Richardson, explains his press rep, likes to have a couple of hundred people over for dinner in any given week and doesn’t feel it would be appropriate to send out to Wendy’s. “OK, head count, please. That’s 173 WITH cheese?”
Here’s the clincher: Sparks claims, one, the amount is something less than $64,000, and, two, the state is saving several thousand dollars because the personal chef replaces caterers who were much more expensive. So there.
Now, how about that $10,000 a month water bill at the governor’s house, a rather startling figure when the rest of us are being asked to water our yards with an eye dropper?
Hold on there, Sparks cautioned. It’s not just the governor’s house. It’s the state mansion and should be compared to a hotel, not a private residence.
Relieved to hear Richardson wasn’t spending all his time in the shower, I moved on. How about the governor’s pet project, educational amendments 1 and 2? Does Richardson think they will pass when the voters tromp to the polls in a few days?
The governor thinks it will be a squeaker. I realized it was a dumb question the moment it escaped my lips. It’s like asking the Oklahoma football coach if he can beat Rice.
“Rice, are you kidding? We’d rather schedule the Cowboys. Have you seen the size of those boys? We just hope our kids don’t get hurt.”
A columnist spends a lot of time thinking about what he will ask when he finally talks to someone important. Like, when I finally get Up There, the first thing I am going to ask God is this:
“OK, God, this thing with cats. Just what did you have in mind when you made cats? Was it an off day for you, or what’s the deal?”
I couldn’t think of much to ask Billy Sparks, so I asked him what the governor likes to watch on television. News and sports, Billy says.
I’m not buying it. I think it’s West Wing. And I think Gov. Bill is taking notes.

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at: