Gov. Mike Huckabee celebrated his 45th birthday in a new home today, giving a nationally broadcast tour of the “roomy and comfortable” manufactured mansion where he will live while his regular home is being repaired.
The 2,133-square-foot triple-wide home features two living rooms — one equipped with a remote control gas fireplace — a large master bedroom and bathroom and three wooden outdoor decks.
“One of the things I think people are surprised by is just really how roomy and comfortable it is, how well-lit it is,” Huckabee said, standing by the kitchen sink during a live tour for NBC’s Today show.
“This is not the typical feel of what people perceive as a mobile home, and that’s why the manufactured housing industry really deserves the term, manufactured housing,” he said.
Laughing Off Trailer Jokes
Wednesday, first lady Janet Huckabee led neighbors and reporters through the new home after a ceremony with the mobile home’s manufacturer. This morning, she was joined by the governor as they led one last cameraman through the house they now hope to keep private.
The tours are intended to put a positive spin on a move that has been the subject of jokes by Jay Leno and other comedians. Today host Matt Lauer jokingly asked if the mobile home had indoor plumbing.
Huckabee said he doesn’t mind the jokes and fired back a few of his own aimed at Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore and the Clinton administration.
“We’re blowing the stereotypes by letting people see that this is not some pull-behind-the-truck trailer,” Huckabee said. “This is a beautiful, very nice home. We’re thrilled to death to have it.”
Mrs. Huckabee said the first family could live in the mobile home for up to 2½ years while the mansion undergoes plumbing and wiring improvements and perhaps an expansion. She is leading a fund-raising drive for an $8 million project that would add a large reception hall, new residential wing and perhaps a cement pond (swimming pool) and sculpture garden.
Ark. First Lady Shows Off New Home
On Wednesday, Mrs. Huckabee ran up the wooden porch steps to hang the state seal to the left of the front door. Then she cut a foot-high, red plastic “ribbon” with hedge clippers, took off her shoes so as to not dirty the new carpet, and led curious onlookers on tours.
“There are no words to describe the excitement I feel,” Mrs. Huckabee said.
Champion Enterprises Chairman Walt Young handed Mrs. Huckabee the keys to what he called the “first manufactured mansion.” He said his company designed the home for “a quality lifestyle.”
The home has its own concrete sidewalk in which is carved a message of thanks to the home’s makers from the first family. In a nearby flower garden sits a fake pink flamingo.
The front door opens to a wooden-floor entry area, with vases and mirrors moved from the mansion. To one side is an office, to another a bedroom, and on the third side is a formal living and dining area — the mansion’s golden dinnerware set in place on the table.
The kitchen features matching white appliances and wooden cabinets with glass doors. It also has a wet bar — something the Huckabees as staunch Southern Baptists do not plan to use.
“I thought it was an island in the kitchen where we cut vegetables,” Mrs. Huckabee said. “I think that’s what we’ll use it for, and maybe for repotting my plants.”
The remote-control fireplace, with large-screen television above it, is the focal point of a less-formal living room. The master bedroom connects to a spacious bathroom, with a separate shower and raised bathtub, and a covered outdoor deck.
Yet Mrs. Huckabee acknowledges that not everything could fit in her new home. The mansion’s large dining room rug, for example, is being put in storage.
The house was donated by the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association, which used the tour to tout its industry and criticize city zoning ordinances that prohibit their homes in certain parts of town.
Industry officials and Mrs. Huckabee have become ruffled at references to a “trailer” or “mobile home,” preferring to call it a “manufactured home.”
“What about this house resembles a trailer? I don’t see anything,” boasted J.D. Harper, executive director of the state Manufactured Housing Association. “And what Arkansan would be embarrassed to live in a beautiful home like this?”
Harper has valued the home, its transportation, installation and landscaping at almost $110,000.