Iowa’s future “First Family” won’t be moving into the governor’s mansion until sometime in early February. Governor-elect Chet Culver’s wife, Mari, says initially, their four- and five-year-old kids weren’t thrilled about moving.
“They understood through the course of the campaign that there were two elections — that dad had to win twice which was a strange concept to them,” Mari Culver says. “They were very reticent about moving and so in the fall I just told them ‘Gosh, let’s just think about the campaign now and we won’t have to worry about that’ and then all of a sudden we had to worry about that. We took them over to Terrace Hill…Once they saw the beautiful home and the residence they were just very excited.”
The first two floors of Terrace Hill are restored with Victoria-era furnishings and are open for public tours. The top floor is the governor’s private residence. The Culvers promised their kids they’d make the bedrooms in the top floor of the mansion look more like their bedrooms in the family home in West Des Moines. “The Vilsacks have adult children who have occupied those rooms and we want to make them more like their rooms at home,” Mari Culver says. “There are some safety issues in the kitchen. I am a sharp corner fanatic, so we’re rounding some corners just to make it a little bit more kid-friendly and then we’ll do some basic cosmetic paint and wallpaper-type projects.”
Mari Culver has talked with outgoing First Lady Christie Vilsack and former First Lady Billie Ray, who helped restore the mansion and moved in with her husband and their teenage daughter, but Mrs. Culver says the advice those two women have shared will remain private. “It’s a beautiful home and I’m sure we’ll be very happy there,” she says.
Mari Culver is an attorney who intends to keep practicing law part-time. “I’ve pretty much been on leave the last couple of months,” Culver says. “…I’ve worked part-time the last five-and-a-half years and I imagine I will continue on a part-time basis.”
During a news conference this (Wednesday) morning in Des Moines, Mari Culver joked with reporters that the biggest transition so far has been getting a better wardrobe. She then added that handling the spotlight has been a bit difficult. “In my practice of law, I’m in the courtroom and that comes easy to me. This is difficult,” Mari Culver said of speaking in public at news conferences. “I am sure it will be hard for the kids and I am sure you all will cut us some slack.”
The Culver children attend a Catholic school in West Des Moines. Their son is still in preschool. Their daughter is in kindergarten. “They’re very young,” Mari Culver said. “This will be an adjustment for them.”
Mrs. Culver says she and her husband have already started talking with the kids about not touching the valuables on the bottom two floors of Terrace Hill.