Will O’Malley met the Dalai Lama.

His sister Tara hated politics but loved going for long runs through the Naval Academy.

Drew Ehrlich liked sailing his toy boats in the ornate fountain, particularly while his dad gave speeches on the front lawn.

And Raymond Glendening discovered a trap door to the roof and an amazing — and totally off-limits — view of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay for miles around.

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Mia and James Moore, the young children of Gov.-elect Wes Moore and his wife, Dawn, are about to join an exclusive list of children in Maryland history, moving into the governor’s official home in Annapolis, Government House. Those who have lived there prior say there will be wonderful experiences they’ll never forget — and moments that are, frankly, harder because they will be lived in the public eye.

“Being so young, I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on,” said Drew Ehrlich, who was just 5 years old when his father Bob Ehrlich took office in January 2003. “So I was like, ‘Hey, this is all pretty cool.’ I get all this attention. I get all this stuff. You don’t realize it at that age.

“And when you’re out of it, you realize how this is a very unusual circumstance.”

Children have been in the mansion going back to the 1880s, according to “A Dwelling House and other Conveniences: A History of Maryland’s Government House” by state Archivist Elaine Rice Bachmann and Mimi Scrivener Calver. There have been gubernatorial dogs (the first was named Grover Cleveland) and teenage drama in the house. There have been divorces and weddings, babies and death.

In short, it is a house where families live their lives.

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But for the children who call it home for four or eight years, the 1870 Victorian mansion, later converted to a Georgian style, between Church and State circles in Annapolis is a place in constant search of a balance between public and private.

“Living in that type of bubble makes you extremely close to the people you’re in the bubble with,” Will said. “Living in that environment and being able to trust your family, really does wonders for how close you are.”

Now, after eight years under Gov. Larry Hogan, when the family dynamic shifted to visits from grandchildren, the mansion is about to get a new generation of governor’s kids.

On Wednesday, the Moores will move their 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son into a house filled with showpiece furniture and artwork drawn from the Maryland State Archives. The lower floors include public space for receptions and state functions, while the family spaces on the upper levels are private.

Asked on CBS Sunday Morning how they sold the kids on moving from Baltimore to Annapolis, Wes and Dawn Moore laughed. “The puppy,” he said smiling. Dawn added, “We will be getting a puppy.”

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The Moores will have help in navigating the unique living situation, from friends and family to mansion staff and members of the Maryland State Police protective service detail. But it will be up to them to determine how to adapt to their new home.

“Every governor and governor-elect of Maryland and every other state have kids that range in age and personalities,” said Raymond, who was in high school when his father, Parris Glendening, took office in 1995. “There’s no wrong decision. Whatever decision any governor makes is the right one for his family.”

Some children have fun with it, and certainly that includes former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s boys, Will and Jack. The brothers were 4 and 9 when their dad took office in 2007. Will remembers making noises while hiding under tables during formal events and running up the stairs of the State House to see his father.

“The two of us had a ton of fun doing little kid stuff,” Will said. “We would play hide and seek. My little brother would do these stunts where he would throw life-sized stuffed animals from the top of the staircase.

“People would be terrified and think a kid had jumped or something.”

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Others find life in a public place less comfortable. Tara and her sister Grace were 15 and 16 when they moved into Government House, and the governor and his wife, Katie, gave the girls the top floor so they could have more privacy.

“Grace is my older sister. She’s just about a year older than me and we’re best friends,” Tara said. “So that was, I think, definitely helpful to go through that experience with your best friend and sister.”

Each child finds their own way through childhood, and that’s true whether it’s lived in a mansion or a one-bedroom apartment. There are things about growing up in Annapolis that are universal, too. Will tried sailing — hated it.

Both Tara and Drew remember Annapolis Ice Cream Co. on Main Street, its windows populated with large stuffed penguins. She got a summer job scooping ice cream there, a few years after Kendel Ehrlich took her sons to the shop on walks through the historic city.

Drew especially recalls “those kinds of summer nights where my mom and I would walk down and just go get food, whatever it may be,” he said.

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Politics will be a part of life for the Moore kids for the next four or eight years. That can be fun if you’re into it.

Tara was not.

“I do remember going to Fourth of July parades, especially during campaign years,” she said. “And we just hated those because it’s, like, all day long. It’s hot. And, you know, most people are nice, but then every once in a while, you’ll get someone who’s yelling something about your dad. And that can be like, ‘Oh, God, get me out of here.’”

Still, a governor’s kids can have experiences that other children just don’t have. The O’Malleys paid for their children to go along on state visits to China and Israel. Then there was that audience with the Dalai Lama in 2013.

“That was amazing,” Will said.

Living in the governor’s mansion may make some hard times more difficult for families. Raymond was away at West Virginia University when his father and mother, Francis Glendening, divorced. He was still there when his dad and stepmother, Jennifer Glendening, brought their baby daughter, Bri, home to the mansion.

“There were reporters calling all the time, calling for comment,” Raymond said.

Despite that experience, he thinks it’s fair for the news media to ask questions about the governor’s household.

“You’re not allowed to ask about Wes’ kids?” he said. “What about the staff when something happens?”

There will be friends who stick with the Moore kids, just as there were for Raymond at high school, and some who drift away. But there will be new ones in surprising places.

“Gosh, I don’t know what year it was when (Nintendo) Wii first came out,” Drew said. “And the troopers got a Wii and I thought it was the coolest thing ever to go down and play with them. It was a great time.”

For Tara, it was the pastry chef in the basement kitchen.

“I love baking,” she said. “I immediately became close with her and she taught me all sorts of baking tricks. She was definitely probably my closest friend on the staff.”

And then, suddenly, it will be over and the rest of life happens.

Drew is applying to law schools, and Will is there now. Tara is a lawyer too, but still not interested in politics. Bri, who doesn’t remember the nights her father walked the second floor with her when she was a baby and couldn’t sleep, is a college junior.

Raymond works just a few feet from his old home, running a public affairs firm in Annapolis. But he looks back fondly on his mansion years.

“Every other kid in the state of Maryland wishes they had this experience,” he said, offering a bit of advice. “So, use the experience. Make it work for you on your own terms and most importantly have fun with it.”

rick.hutzell@thebaltimorebanner.com

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and we're we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom. 

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