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Security concerns prompt fence around governor's mansion

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa public safety officials said Friday that security concerns have prompted the state to build a wrought iron fence around Terrace Hill, the historic Des Moines mansion that serves as the governor’s private residence.

“Terrace Hill serves as the family home for our governors and their families, and we need to provide the safest environment possible for them. These enhancements are part of an overall state initiative to improve the security footprint at our state facilities,” Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said in a statement.

DPS said in the statement that Iowa is one of the few U.S. states without perimeter security fencing around the governor’s residence. It said repeated threats against elected officials, including Reynolds, have been widespread and alarming.

“The foiled attempt to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has only reinforced our longstanding concerns,” DPS said, adding that Michigan recently installed a perimeter fence around the governor’s residence.

Iowa Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Alex Dinkla said Reynolds receives frequent complaints and some are deemed serious threats that are investigated by the Iowa State Patrol office responsible for Iowa Capitol personnel security. Charges have been filed in recent months against several people who made threats, Dinkla said.

Reynolds and her husband Kevin live in the 18,000-square-foot Victorian mansion, which sits atop a hill on eight acres just west of downtown Des Moines.

The home is in a tree-lined area populated with large homes built by the city’s early wealthy class of business owners and politicians. Once a private home of a wealthy family, it stood vacant for more than a decade before it was donated to the state in 1971. Extensive renovations have returned the building to its Victorian glory, and it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of the home is open to public tours and it serves as a period piece museum as well as the home of Iowa’s governors since Robert Ray moved there with his family in 1976.

Officials said the fence will be in keeping with the historic nature of the property. The fence is expected to be completed by this summer.

Dinkla said initial discussions of increased security at Terrace Hill began as far back as 2005 after Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack had a car stolen from the mansion property.