Mrs. Snoops turns hand to decor of governor's yacht

September 21, 1990|By Doug Birch | Doug Birch,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Hilda Mae Snoops, the governor's longtime companion who directed the $1.7 million renovation of the Governor's Mansion, has now turned her decorator's eye on the Independence, the 112-foot former Canadian subchaser that serves as the governor's yacht.

State officials say Mrs. Snoops, on whom Gov. William Donald Schaefer conferred the title of Maryland's official hostess, has ordered new drapes, carpeting, couches and chairs for the 46-year-old, mahogany-hulled vessel at a cost of about $9,360. (So far, officials say, only the carpeting and the couch have been delivered.)

The Independence log shows that Mrs. Snoops has taken a keen interest in the operation of the vessel. Last fall, for example, she issued an edict declaring that plastic foam plates be used instead of china.

A year ago, she recommended that another yacht be acquired because the Independence was so busy taking legislators and bureaucrats on cruises that Governor Schaefer had little chance to use it himself. That proposal is not being pursued, officials say.

Pamela J. Kelly, an aide to the governor who reviews the numerous requests for use of the yacht by outside groups, said, "Last year, at the end of the cruise season, the decision was made that we had to do something with the furniture. It was really in bad condition. A lot of it was white couches. You could only keep it clean for a while."

Ms. Kelly said Mrs. Snoops "was consulted" on the new furniture for the yacht, built in 1944 to hunt Axis submarines but converted to a pleasure craft in 1980.

The furnishings were a decade old, Ms. Kelly said. "I would imagine that she [Mrs. Snoops] had the major input there . . . as far as style was concerned," Ms. Kelly said.

Mrs. Snoops ordered and had installed $2,900 worth of new carpeting in the vessel, which has three staterooms, a marble fireplace and a 16-person dining salon.

She also ordered a new sofa and love seat at a cost of $1,200. Both have been delivered. Draperies worth $4,300 are on order, as are 12 chairs for the dining salon at a cost of $960.

Recently, Governor Schaefer asked all state agencies to cut up to 6 percent of their spending in the face of a $150 million budget deficit.

Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary, said he did not know if the cutbacks would affect the furniture purchases, which are being paid for out of the Department of Natural Resources budget for operating the yacht. Mrs. Snoops did not respond to a request for comment.

According to figures from natural resources officials, the cost of the Independence's crew, maintenance and fuel came to $186,522 in fiscal 1990. That translates into a little more than $734 for each of the 254 hours it cruised the bay.

While natural resources officials are in charge of Independence operations, all requests to use it are reviewed by Ms. Kelly, who recommends approval or disapproval to the governor himself. The governor signs all the approval letters, while Secretary of Natural Resources Torrey C. Brown signs the denials.

The yacht's log suggests that Mrs. Snoops, who receives copies of all the approval letters, has sought to play an increasing role in managing the vessel.

Last year, several newspapers reported that the yacht's chef picketed the Independence, saying Mrs. Snoops had him fired for serving strawberry shortcake during a June 7, 1989, cruise honoring former Baltimore City Council President Frank X. Gallagher. Mrs. Snoops preferred devil's food, the chef said. A state boating administration official denied the chef's allegations, saying he decided independently not to extend the chef's seasonal contract.

An Oct. 6, 1989, memo about one trip noted that "Mrs. Snoops has recommended . . . that we are to use [plastic foam] plates and appropriate utensils for this cruise and future cruises. Mrs. Snoops does not believe that regular china place settings are appropriate. She believes that the plates are too heavy and cumbersome to be used on the boat, particularly if the plates have to be held by the guests."

According to an Aug. 3, 1989, memo in the Independence log file, Mrs. Snoops "recommended" that another boat "be acquired for use by the groups who presently use the Independence." One state official said she wanted to give the governor more opportunity to use the yacht himself.

Governor Schaefer said recently he had not heard of the proposal and doubted another yacht was needed. The log shows Mr. Schaefer is seldom aboard, while the vessel cruises about three times a week in the warm months carrying legislators, bureaucrats and political supporters of the governor.

"I never use it. It's always used by someone else," the governor said. Guests, he suggested, would probably be much less interested in cruising on another vessel. "There's an honor and a prestige in using the governor's yacht," he said.

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