How can a governor roll out the red carpet for the Queen of England, when it’s barely held together with tacky silver electrical tape?

One of the biggest disappointments in the four-decade career of Almost DailyBrett was seeing the Office of the Governor in Sacramento for the first time.

Would it be an exaggeration to describe the office in January 1983 as a “hell hole?” Yes, but not as much as one would think.

The red carpeting was held together with silver electrical tape. The paint was chipping off the walls. The casters were falling off the chairs. The office was a great before picture for “Sunset Magazine.”

The chief of staff’s office emitted a fresh sickening sweet aroma, the type of smell that is frequently found in parking garage stairwells.

The physical space of the Office of Governor had been neglected since 1967, the year Governor Ronald Reagan first put his hand on the Bible.

The California that my boss Governor George Deukmejian inherited 16 years later was $1.5 billion in the red, its Triple A bond rating was gone, and the Golden State was threatened with the prospect of paying its bills with IOUs.

Almost seems quaint compared to today’s record California budget deficit of $54 billion.

Feb. 26, 1983: California Gov. and Mrs. Deukmejian, left, watch as Mrs. George Finlayson, wife of the British Consul General, curtsies before Queen Elizabeth II in a reception line at the Broadway Street Pier in San Diego. This photo was published in the Feb. 27, 1983 LA Times.

And yet Queen Elizabeth II and her hubbie Prince Philip were coming to Sacramento, including a visit to the aforementioned hell-hole Office of the Governor on Saturday, March 5, 1983.

Could flat-broke California quickly renovate the office, when it couldn’t even pay its bills?

Our immediate predecessor, “Era of Limits” Jerry Brown (first eight years as California governor), patched up the fraying and decaying red carpeting with silver electrical tape. Did we want to show off the embarrassment of the Office of the Governor of the largest state in the union to Queen Elizabeth in that condition?

Democrat state Senator Alfred E. Alquist (1908-2006) proposed an immediate solution, a massive $2 billion tax increase, right in the middle of a deep recession. Governor Deukmejian promised during the 1982 campaign not to raise taxes. Alquist had a plan for the governor to immediately break his pledge, divide the Republican Party and therefore ensure his tenure as a one-term California chief executive.

Philosophically, we did not believe in the public sector taking billions more from taxpayers, when most families were desperately trying to make ends meet.

Sutter’s Fort To The Rescue

Somehow, someway, we spruced up the office. It wasn’t glamorous, more cosmetic. The carpets were replaced. The walls were painted. There were 1849 Gold Rush era period pieces sprinkled throughout the office courtesy of Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Heck, there was even standard Home Depot-style blue tile in the governor’s corner office loo. George Deukmejian — who later was labeled “The Iron Duke” — was accused of being a spendthrift.

The queen’s California Dreamin’ itinerary included stops in San Diego, Palm Springs, LA, Yosemite, San Francisco and then Sacramento. Shortly before her trip to Sacramento, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip held a 31st wedding anniversary dinner for President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan aboard the HMY Britannia moored in San Francisco.

Almost DailyBrett distinctly remembers being asked by San Francisco Chronicle capitol reporter Rob Gunnison, whether George Deukmejian would have to transfer his authority to then Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy because the Britannia was a foreign flag “The Union Jack” vessel? An arcane law promulgated during the 19th Century days of the telegraph requires the Governor to cede powers to the Light Governor, whenever he or she leaves the state.

Was The Duke really departing California?

Your author’s first instinct was the question was preposterous. His second was only a lawyer would know for sure. Vance Raye was our Legal Affairs Secretary. Remember seeing him roll his eyes upon hearing the media question. After hours-upon-hours of research, Vance concluded that since the “Britannia” was floating in California waters, well within the three-mile state limit, therefore George Deukmejian remained present in the Golden State.

If someone wished to sue, then someone could very well sue. The law books were essentially silent when it came to governors, foreign-flag yachts, presidents, monarchs and California waters. We were more than confident, we would prevail — if necessary — in court. By then, it would be a moot point.

The story ultimately led to a happy ending. The queen enjoyed a smashingly brilliant visit to California. The Office of the Governor was presentable. There were zero lawsuits.

And best of all, Governor Deukmejian vetoed $1 billion out of the state budget and allowed the economic resurgence to do the rest.

The governor did not raise taxes, California’s budget was balanced with a $1 billion prudent reserve for emergencies, the state’s Triple A bond rating was restored, and George Deukmejian was re-elected in the blue state’s greatest landslide (61 percent to 37 percent) in 1986.

Those were the days my friend; Almost DailyBrett wishes they never ended.