Tom Vilsack held his last news conference inside the governor’s office at the state capitol at nine o’clock this morning. “One of the reasons why we scheduled this press conference is so I wouldn’t have to be at Terrace Hill moving,” Vilsack said, laughing. “I hate to move. I just hate it. You know, there’s just a lot of things that you accumulate over time.”
Vilsack plans to spent “a couple of hours” today cleaning out his office in the state capitol. Vilsack’s staff has been boxing up his papers. “We have some papers, obviously, at the Historical Building,” Vilsack said. “…There are some personal papers, things that belong to me, that will be stored in Mount Pleasant.” The Vilsacks kept their home on Main Street in Mount Pleasant, but they’ve rented an apartment in Des Moines that will serve as a base of operations as Vilsack travels the country running for president.
Vilsack won’t be taking any of the gifts he’s received as governor. Those have been “catalogued” and the gifts that are not on display have been stored away. “Honestly, I don’t know where it is,” Vilsack says. “We ought to have a huge garage sale. I think we’d probably be able to balance the (state) budget for a couple of years if we did that.” Vilsack has declined to publicly offer advice to Governor-elect Culver, but during his public exit interview with statehouse reporters, Vilsack offered this observation about what he wished he’d realized heading into office eight years ago.
“I wish I had appreciated better the job of governor in terms of establishing an attitude and an atmosphere as opposed to legislative achievements,” Vilsack said. “…That’s not an easy thing to understand and that’s not an easy thing to do but I think it’s in integral role for a governor.” According to Vilsack, that didn’t sink in until his first term was nearing an end.
“We went through some difficult times and we had to make some tough decisions,” Vilsack said. “…There’s no way you can describe this job to anybody…You can have the best plans in the world…and then something can happen…You have to be able to cope…and that’s what makes this job such a challenging job and a great job, but it also makes it a difficult one.” Vilsack arranged for folks who’ve been involved in promoting the purchase of Iowa-grown food to be at this morning’s event.
“This is the last opportunity I have to speak to the press and I think it’s probably appropriate that I’m actually here to talk about food,” Vilsack said, laughing. “When I ran for governor in 1998 I talked a lot about Iowa becoming the food capitol…and this is an indication of how extensive the concept of food capitol can be.” Vilsack touted efforts to get state government agencies to buy more Iowa-grown food. Vilsack’s staff placed coffee and donuts on a side table in the room.
As Vilsack exited the room he picked out a donut for himself, then revealed he’d already eaten Dutch Letters at the governor’s mansion. The state troopers who’ve been on Vilsack’s security detail for the past eight years took the pastries there to mark the final hours of his governorship.