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Wilson transitions into power slowly

October 18, 2000
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In "deferrence" to Gov. Mel Carnahan's "crushed" staff, Gov. Roger Wilson is moving in slowly.

Wilson "will gradually make the move with full deferrence to the fact we just suffered a tremendous tragedy, both the state and the families, but also the governor's office family as well," said John Robinson, Wilson's chief of staff when he was lieutenant governor.

The former lieutenant governor, Wilson was sworn in as Missouri's 52nd governor early Wednesday morning after Carnahan's death in a plane crash was confirmed. Carnahan's son, Roger, and a key aide, Chris Sifford, were also killed.

For the first time since becoming acting governor early Tuesday, Wilson began his day in the governor's office.

Tuesday morning he started his day in the lieutenant governor's office.

"Part of the reason he's split between the two offices is comfort," Robinson said. "All of his stuff is still here" in the lieutenant governor's office.

Wilson said he has now started working mostly out of the governor's office, a large oval, wood-paneled room -- a room he didn't enter for more than 12 hours after assuming the governor's powers.

At an afternoon news conference in the office, the desks and walls were noticeably bare.

"I can't tell how long (the transition) will take," Wilson said. "I don't think it's really all that important to me (to get it done) but it's important to the people to know everything is secure.

"The state is in trememdous shape so we have been trying to focus on working with the Carnahan and Sifford families to make sure what's done for them is done right."

Yet there is state business to address and gubernatorial activites to perform.

In his first official act as governor, Wilson declared Friday a day of mourning for the state and gave all state workers the day off to attend Carnahan's memorial. The memorial will be at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol grounds.

Wilson said he started the morning Wednesday in individual meetings with the members of Carnahan's staff. "They're just crushed," he said. He then met with them to discuss issues.

On Tuesday, Wilson met with the governor's staff and assured them that he wanted to stay the course Carnahan was leading.

He said he has cleared his lieutenant governor speaking schedule, but events scheduled for Carnahan are up in the air.

"I would not presume to take over (Carnahan's) speaking schedule," he said. "If I was asked I would consider it."

Because the lieutenant governor is also formally referred to as governor, he said being called governor hasn't thrown him. Within the staff though, he said he preferred to be called "Roger."

"When they say "governor" they think of Mel," he said.

He said both staffs -- Carnahan's and the Wilson's old lieutenant governor staff -- will be maintained for a while.

Wilson and his wife have not moved into the governor's mansion. He said he still drives home each night to his Columbia home. He said Carnahan's wife, Jean, can stay in the mansion as long as she wants.

He has been assigned the same security team that protected Carnahan.