Gov. Hutchinson names new Mansion Commission | Arkansas Blog

Gov. Hutchinson names new Mansion Commission

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MANSION MINDERS: Susan Hutchinson and Shayla Copas - SOIREE
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  • MANSION MINDERS: Susan Hutchinson and Shayla Copas
Gov. Asa Hutchinson wasted no time naming members old and new to the reconstituted Governor's Mansion Commission.

It's mostly ceremonial. Legislation he jammed through the special session as a result of his wife Susan's unhappiness over decor issues with the existing commission stripped the commission of its long-standing power over the public's house and put it firmly in the hands of the governor. The legislation was introduced the night before a brief special session and Republican leaders coerced Democrats who raised objections to fall in line. The governor tried to make the issue appear to be failure of the commission to address some routine maintenance of a 60-year-old building (leaks, occasional rodent outbreaks and the like) but this was just cover. Those problems were in the process of being addressed and the Hutchinsons had gotten $1.1 million from an agency overseen by his political appointee, Stacy Hurst, for various repairs and some substantial projects aimed at the "comfort" of the First Family.

The appointees include:

* Shayla Copas, an interior designer with close ties to Hutchinson (she was paid for work at both his inaugural and redecorating his Capitol office), who was reappointed.

* Woody Freeman of Jonesboro, a former Republican gubernatorial nominee, was appointed to replace Kaki Hockersmith, a designer with old Democratic ties and with whom Susan Hutchinson had had disagreements over furniture purchases and spending $200,000 to make a grander setting for a $3,500 piece of metal sculpture donated to the Mansion.

* Sally Kibler of Fort Smith replaces Debi Havner. She is the mother-in-law of a former Hutchinson campaign worker and current director of the state Information Services Department, Mark Myers.

Other appointees are current commissioner Joe Dan Yee of Lake Village; Patricia Johnson of Little Rock, a new member; Dinah Arnold of Arkadelphia, who replaces Penny Thomason; Charlene Reed of Little Rock, who remains on the commission, and Barbara Phillips of Rogers, who replaces Michael Mayton, the former chair.

Reed will be chair, the governor's spokesman said.

All members serve at the pleasure of the governor. Or probably more realistically, the pleasure of the first lady.

Hutchinson's legislation, among others, stripped the commission of rule-making power; gave the governor control over the chair and other commissioners at any time; and gave a vote to Stacy Hurst, who'd served ex officio as Heritage Department director. The law also ended control of the commission over what gifts could be accepted. The idea before was to have a unified approach and historical long view of the Mansion over a period of time, rather than have the building be subject to changing administration whims. That's over. As Mike Huckabee once said about some earlier Mansion drama: "If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy."

PS — A spokesman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that all commissioners who asked to be reappointed were reappointed — that would be Yee, Reed and Copas.


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