How to Meet a Governor

I really enjoy visiting state capitol buildings. In fact, I have been to 17 of them. Each capitol building is unique and (with some notable exceptions) they have beautiful architecture. The crown jewel of any state capitol visit is to meet the governor. I am lucky enough to have met 4 governors (Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Tennessee). If you follow these steps, you can increase your odds of meeting the most powerful person in the state.

Hanging out with Governor Mike Beebe in Little Rock, Arkansas
Hanging out with Governor Mike Beebe in Little Rock, Arkansas

Step 1: Go To The Capitol When The Governor is There: While the state capitol buildings are open during business hours year-round, the governor will rarely go to the building unless the legislature is in session. That is because the governor cannot sign laws unless the legislature passes it. The legislative season varies greatly by state. In California, the legislature is always in session, but in Wyoming, the legislature only meets for 6 weeks every year. Do your research.

At the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. Unfortunately, the legislature is not in session in August.
At the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. Unfortunately, the legislature is not in session in August.

Step 2: Go To The Governor’s Office: If the governor is in the building, he/she will most likely be in the governor’s office. If the state flag is flying outside the governor’s office, you are in business. When you enter the office, you will first meet the governor’s secretary.

At Governor Sam Brownback's desk in Topeka, Kansas. The buffalo hide is real and was given to the governor by a local Indian chief.
At Governor Sam Brownback’s desk in Topeka, Kansas. The buffalo hide is real and was given to the governor by a local Indian chief.

Step 3: Charm the Secretary: Here is where you have to be bold and turn on the charm because this secretary is the gatekeeper who decides whether or not you are going to meet the governor. The secretary has most likely worked on the governor’s campaign and shares similar ideological views. If you openly disagree with the governor’s politics, say goodnight, because the secretary won’t help you in a million election cycles. But if you are (or pretend to be) an ardent supporter of the governor’s policies and can elaborate on it, the secretary will be very willing to help you on your quest. Once again, do your research.

With Governor Jan Brewer at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix
With Governor Jan Brewer at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix. The governor’s secretary was a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan and invited me to the press conference because of the shirt. Lesson of the day: dress for success.

Step 4: Be Willing To Wait Or Relocate: odds are the governor is busy in his/her office and cannot see you when you talk to the secretary. That said, if you followed Step 3, the secretary will help you out and tell you what the governor is doing during the day. This will work to your advantage because you can either crash the event or try to snag them in transit. My two most recent gubernatorial encounters happened at press conferences held in the capitol. Both situations were identical: the secretary told me that the governor was holding a press conference in an hour in a certain room and if I walked in and talked to the right people, I could attend.

At the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne. While I did not meet the governor, I was allowed to snag a pen and a pin from his desk.
At the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne. While I did not meet the governor, I was allowed to snag a pen and a pin from his desk.

Step 5: Be In The Right Place At The Right Time: Once you are in a governor’s press conference, you are not quite there yet, as all 50 or so people in the room have the same goal as you: to meet the governor. This is where stealth, pushiness, and a little luck comes in. After a press conference, the governor usually wants to be on the media’s good side and will say hi to a few people. That said, he/she does not have time to talk to everyone, so you have to position yourself accordingly so that you are one of the first 3-5 people in line. Once you think the press conference is about to end or when the governor stops speaking, make your move towards the front while at the same time not drawing the gaze of the entire room and becoming a statewide public embarrassment. If all goes well, extend out your hand, smile, and hopefully you will get a gubernatorial handshake in return.

At the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City
At the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Fun Fact: the metal detectors here do not work.

Step 6: Pics Or It Didn’t Happen: Congrats! You met the most powerful person in the state. However, in the age of social media, that most important step is the picture. This is the only way to prove that you ACTUALLY met the governor and aren’t making up a story. Plus, all you’re friends can now envy your political networking skills on Facebook.

The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. I ran into the governor in a hallway here, but alas I do not have the pictures to prove it. You'll just have to take my word.
The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. I ran into the governor in a hallway here, but alas I do not have the pictures to prove it. Therefore, this picture really isn’t that cool.

Step 7: Keep Trying: If for some reason, you can’t catch the governor at a press conference, you can always hang around the capitol and see what happens. Everyone who works in the building has connections and has access to really cool places, so keep chatting up everyone you see wearing a suit. Maybe that intern has the keys to the rotunda or is a staffer for the Speaker of the House. You just never know-that’s the magic of state capitol buildings. While most times, you will not meet the governor, in the words of Wayne Gretsky, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Below are a bunch of pictures from state capitols where I did not meet the governor, yet still had a great time.

Underneath the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City. A nice lady turned out to be the keymaster for the building and let me go up to the top
Underneath the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City. A nice lady turned out to be the keymaster for the building and let me go up to the top
At the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery
At the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery
The Senate Chamber in the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis
The Senate Chamber in the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis. The chamber is currently undergoing renovations.
At the Nevada State Capitol Building in Carson City
At the Nevada State Capitol Building in Carson City
The Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. The building is exactly 1 mile above sea level.
The Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. The building is exactly 1 mile above sea level.
The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston
The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston
The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison
The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison
The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

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