JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi turned over the calendar to begin its bicentennial year as a state on Friday with the state's first lady, Deborah Bryant, embodying the spirit of the Hospitality State.
Bryant spoke at the Old Capitol, marking the 199th anniversary of Mississippi joining the Union. She talked about her efforts to make sure the governor's mansion is open to everyone, including strangers she sometimes meets just outside the fence of the governor's residence.
"I have probably been security's worst nightmare," Bryant told a crowd of about 100 people. "I do drag people in off the street. I started that very early."
The governor's residence is the second-oldest continuously occupied governor's home in the United States. In 2017, the Mississippi mansion will mark 175 years of use.
Bryant said when her husband was elected, the mansion was plagued by leaking ductwork, which in turn was leading to other deterioration.
"It was to the point that it was embarrassing for the public to see it," Bryant said.
Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Chuck Williams said the state ended up spending $3.8 million, including $2.7 million to replace the ductwork and $1.1 million to repair deteriorated plaster.
Some work in the private residential area is financed by private money. The Governor's Mansion Foundation has raised more than $400,000 since 2011, according to tax forms.
The Bryants lived elsewhere for a time, and Deborah Bryant said that after they thought the work was done and moved back in, they had to live in the basement for months when more problems cropped up.
Mississippi is planning celebrations throughout the year to mark its 200th anniversary, including spring concerts and the opening of two state history museums in Jackson in December 2017.