Janet Napolitano says there’s a good reason that her face is on billboards around the state.
"I’m the governor,’’ she said.
"We want to advertise the state, advertise things positive about the state, moving Arizona forward,’’ Napolitano continued. "That’s all there is to it.’’
Since March, the governor’s face has been on billboards in and around the Valley and Tucson promoting in-state tourism.
The governor said using her image is not unique. Jeanine L’Ecuyer, her press aide, specifically cited the images of Arnold Schwarzenegger on similar billboards urging Californians to vacation in their own state.
Margie Emmerman, whom Napolitano appointed director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said it was her agency’s idea -- and not Napolitano’s -- to use the governor’s picture.
"We wanted a very recognizable face,’’ Emmerman said. "Who better than the governor of the state?’’
Emmerman said this isn’t the first time her office used the governor to promote Arizona. She said Napolitano was featured during the state’s 30-second commercials the last two years during the Insight Bowl.
But the tourism billboards aren’t the only image of Napolitano seen by motorists. Her visage also appears on other signs in southern and central Arizona advising people they must dial 911 for emergency calls in this state and 066 in Sonora, Mexico. These were paid for by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the state Department of Homeland Security.
Michael Hegarty, deputy director of the highway office, said the signs are aimed primarily at visitors from Mexico. He said it makes sense to have the governor welcoming these people to the state.
Napolitano, who faces a potentially tough re-election campaign next year, said the billboards are not designed to boost her campaign.
L’Ecuyer said state agencies checked ahead of time to ensure that using Napolitano’s picture did not violate the rules of the Citizens Clean Election Commission.