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Richard Piatt ReportingGovernor Olene Walker is busy saying goodbye these days. This week, Walker is has been traveling between state agencies for a series of farewells, as she wraps up her service to the state.
Saying goodbye has been a process for Governor Olene Walker. A couple hundred at a time, Walker has said 'thank you' and 'farewell' to state workers. And some, in turn, affectionately say thank you back. At the State Office Building, employees dug an old sign out of storage and signed it as a remembrance.
"I just want to say thank you because you're a great governor as far as K-12 kids are concerned."
"I'm on the state advisory board for the National Guard and I want to thank you for all you've done."
Walker has gotten used to the perks and the long hours of the job. Being chauffeured by State Troopers eases the pressure a bit.
Gov. Walker: "I don't know if I've ever been threatened, but they would take care of everything. Right Brian?” “Right governor."
In her final weeks in office, there are still official duties. At her last televised news conference on public television, she handled questions about the budget, hazardous waste policy, and ethics reform for the state.
Gov. Olene Walker: “I think in the public’s perception it’s an issue. So I think they would be wise to say, ‘no gifts.’”
And questions that, as the first female Governor, she has ever felt that she was not taken as seriously as she should have been?
Gov. Olene Walker: “ No. I've felt a great weight on my shoulders because I was the first female governor."
She's tried to make a difference, and to many she has.
Quietly, some employees say they're ready for an end to the Leavitt/Walker era -- it's been 12 years after all. But mostly, this Governor is already remembered as a breath of fresh air in the stale realm of State Government.