RENO, Nev. — Come January, the official Carson City residence of the state's chief executive will be bustling when the Sandovals — Brian, Kathleen, their children and a menagerie of pets that include four dogs, two cats, two frogs and a turtle — move in.
The family of Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval should provide an interesting contrast to the Nevada's Governor's Mansion occupancy of outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Gibbons divorced first lady Dawn Gibbons halfway through his term and at one point sought to have her removed from the mansion. Dawn Gibbons lived in a guesthouse on the mansion grounds for months until their divorce was finalized in July.
Sandoval, a former federal judge, said the move probably won't faze his family. Their biggest change is months behind them, he said during a recent interview alongside his wife at their Reno home.
"Life changed on Sept. 15," the 46-year-old said. "That's when I stepped off the bench and became a candidate. That's when the real change occurred."
For one thing, the family has had to endure mom's cooking.
"He cooks better than I do, but since he's been gone so much I've been stuck with the chore," Kathleen Sandoval said. "I prefer doing dishes to cooking and my kids prefer when dad does the cooking."
The governor-elect learned his culinary skills working at St. Mary's Hospital while attending the University of Nevada, Reno.
"I cooked for the nuns," he said. "That's how I put myself through college."
He's especially proud of his pies, pumpkin in particular, and his baking has turned into a Christmas dinner tradition.
Kathleen Sandoval will bring her own mark to the Governor's Mansion and the state's history book as the first spouse of a Nevada governor to maintain a full-time salaried position.
She is director of youth and family intervention at The Children's Cabinet, a public-private social services agency headquartered in Reno that serves children and families across northern Nevada.
As first lady, she intends to advocate for more mental health and substance abuse programs for youth.
"We have to send a lot of our youth and kids out of state to receive those services, which ends up costing our state more money," the 45-year-old said.
Proceeds from two inaugural balls planned Jan. 28 in Las Vegas and Jan. 29 in Reno will be donated to three organizations that provide youth counseling.
The Sandoval children — James, 15, Maddy, 14, and Marissa, 6 — will continue to attend Reno schools. James is a freshman at Bishop Manogue High School and plays basketball. His sisters attend public elementary and middle schools.
The Sandovals can often be found in the stands, cheering on their children, though the governor-elect's wife keeps him from becoming too boisterous when he gets wrapped up in the action.
Marissa is excited about the move, and has picked out the bedroom set used in the mansion by former Gov. Richard Bryan's daughter, Kathleen Sandoval said.
The kids have talked about having sleepovers with friends, and sliding down the banister. Other than that, they're more focused on maintaining their day-to-day lives.
"Part of the thing with teenagers is the fact that the world just revolves around them," Kathleen Sandoval said. "They're just worried about, 'How am I going to see my friend next week?' or 'How am I going to get to my next basketball game?'"
As for the assortment of household pets, the Sandovals will also be bringing a brown and beige rat once condemned as dinner for a hungry bull python.
But the snake for some odd reason wasn't interested in this particular furry, pinked-nosed morsel. And so "Bolt" the rat was pardoned by the Sandoval family.
The snake, a pet not favored by the governor-elect, has since found a new home.
"I didn't like the snake," he admits. Neither did his two daughters.