What a difference eight months makes.
It was eight months ago that I spent a beautiful July morning walking through the blueberry fields at Jones Family Farm in Shelton with Stamford Mayor and then-gubernatorial candidate Dannel Malloy as he talked to local officials about agricultural issues.
Malloy was dressed in jeans and an button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. With him were a couple of campaign aides who were very attentive to the several reporters covering the visit -- I was there with the Valley Independent Sentinel.
Malloy spiced his words with lots of personal stories of his experience on farms growing up. He was personable, affable and accessible.
Fast forward eight months to Saturday. I'm now the editor of Hamden Patch and Malloy is governor. He's at Quinnipiac University for the Connecticut Science Fair, an event for which I had received request for coverage both from fair officials and Malloy's office.
Malloy's comfortable attire is replaced by a gubernatorial-looking suit and tie, and the campaign aides have been replaced by an intimidating-looking bodyguard dressed in Secret Service black.
Malloy is behind a portable wall viewing the winning fair entries and shaking the students hands. I begin to walk over to him when a Quinnipiac security guard steps in front of me.
"You can't go there," he says.
At first I thought he was kidding. Really? It's a high school science fair. Hamden Patch was requested to cover it. And I can't get a picture of the governor congratulating the students?
"You have to stay behind that line," the guard insisted, pointing to the floor.
Another person was near the governor taking pictures. What about him, I asked.
"He's got permission," the guard answered. From what I could see, it was apparently a dispensation from the Pope because no one else was allowed anywhere near the governor.
I'm getting mad now. It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I had given up an important family function to be at the fair.
Then Mr. Secret Service and a woman who was in charge of the fair appear.
"You can't go there," the bodyguard said.
I explained that I was with Hamden Patch, had been asked to cover the science fair and just wanted a picture of the governor with the students. To do that, I needed to move up to get the picture.
"What you need to do," the science fair woman said, "is you need to go sit down."
I think at that point there was cartoon-style smoke coming out of my ears.
I understand the heightened need for security for elected officials, especially in light of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Security for all high-ranking elected officials has increased since then, and rightly so.
But I was not some random person who just happened to walk into the science fair, I was a member of the media and my presence was requested. And it's not like there were hoards of media there clammoring to get to the governor -- at best, there were a handful of people who could have been reporters. Or not.
I don't blame Malloy. I'm sure he would have been happy for me to photograph him with the students. He is the first governor to have ever attended the fair, and I think that speaks volumes.
And I don't blame his aide and the fair official either for their need to protect him and ensure his safety at the event.
I do however, blame them for their rudeness and boorish behavoir. It was uncalled for and unprofessional.
In the dozen years I worked at the Connecticut Post, I covered Govs. John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell many times. I covered an event with Rell shortly before she left office in November, and it was not unlike any of the others -- she was accompanied by her State Police driver, but still available and accessible.
But only a few months later, it's a different world. The attempted assisanation of a member of Congress has apparently put the brakes on accessibility to elected leaders.
An overreaction? Perhaps. Assassinations in the United States are very rare today. There were more forty or fifty years ago -- think the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. Compared to that time, today seems a relatively safe era for those in charge.
But anytime anything happens, such as the Giffords shooting, there's bound to be a reaction.
But how sad it is that elected officials now feel the need for presidential-like security details when attending a high school science fair.