Obstruction of justice: For art’s sake, can someone move the birch tree?

he fourth graders who all tour the State House should get to see this portrait of the first woman to be elected governor of New Hampshire, don't you think?

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The Soapbox

Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

Portrait of Gov. Jeanne Shaheen obscured by a birch tree in Gov. Sununu’s office. Photo/Judy Reardon

About a month ago a friend told me that New Hampshire’s current governor, Chris Sununu, had completely blocked the view of Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait. I figured my friend was exaggerating, so when I was in Concord last Friday I went to check it out for myself. As you can see in the photo I’ve posted, her portrait is indeed completely obstructed by a potted tree.

Regardless of how one feels about Jeanne Shaheen politically or personally, she is a historic figure. She was the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire. She was the first woman in American history to be elected a governor and a U.S. senator.

How petty and childish of Gov. Sununu to obstruct the view of her portrait.

Lest you think this was just an oversight by Gov. Sununu, it was not. While I was there last Friday I spoke with his chief of staff, Jayne Millerick.

“Jayne, you’re completely blocking Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait. You need to fix that,” I said.

“The tree can only be in that spot,” Ms. Millerick responded.

Rather than question her interior design sense, I said, “Okay. But her portrait doesn’t have to be hung on that panel. It’s the only portrait of a female governor. The other five portraits are all of men. Why is hers the one that’s got to be blocked by the tree?”

Ms. Millerick paused and said, “They’re hung in chronological order.”

“No, they’re not. Hers is the second most recent portrait. After Craig Benson, hers is the most recent,” I pointed out.

Portrait of Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in progress, painted by Ralph “Stoney” Jacobs.

By tradition, the portraits of the most recent governors are hung in the reception area of the governor’s office. That means right now it’s the portraits of Craig Benson (2003-2005), Jeanne Shaheen (1997-2003), Steve Merrill (1993-1997), Judd Gregg (1989-1993), John H. Sununu (1983-1989), Hugh Gallen (1979-1983), and Mel Thomson (1973-1979). As I noted earlier, it’s Jeanne Shaheen and five men.

On my way out I said, “Jayne, you really need to take care of this.”

Well, it’s one week later and the potted tree is still completely blocking the view of Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait. Having worked in the governor’s office for six years, I assure you this could have been taken care of the day I complained. But I figured I’d give them a week before going public. After all, I knew they were busy this week establishing a committee to study a public boat launch that’s been studied for the last 20 years and issuing an executive order creating a Millennial Advisory Committee.

I don’t know if the motivation for this pettiness was the fact Jeanne Shaheen defeated John E. Sununu in the 2008 senate election or if Chris Sununu is planning on challenging her in 2020 or if they simply don’t like portraits of women.

But it’s petty and childish.

Since you won’t be able to see Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait at the State House while Chris Sununu is governor, I’m posting a photo of her portrait (see above) taken about a month before NH artist Stoney Jacobs finished it.

It’s kind of nice, isn’t it? The fourth graders who all tour the State House should get to see this portrait of the first woman to be elected governor of New Hampshire, don’t you think?

Editor’s Note: An editorial error incorrectly identified the tree in question. It has been confirmed to be a white birch by the governor’s office, via Twitter, and they have promised to move the tree.  The headline and caption have been updated.


Judy Reardon served as Legal Counsel to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.