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District officials love their Lincoln Navigators. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty may be better known for driving an eco-friendly Smart car, but he still commuted to the Wilson Building in a Navigator. Vince Gray bounced between campaign stops during his 2010 mayoral run in a Navigator paid for by shadow campaign mastermind Jeff Thompson.
Ex-D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown earned his nickname first for his insistence on getting a Navigator—an unusual perk for a Council chairman—and then demanding that it come with the works.
Muriel Bowser and her security detail have continued the tradition, outfitting her with another black Lincoln Navigator. While Bowser’s Navigator connection isn’t as scandalous as Gray’s or Brown’s, though, her car is noteworthy for one thing: It’s crazy expensive!
That ’gator, which was leased in October 2014 at the end of the Gray administration, costs $2,344 a month, according to invoices obtained by LL through a Freedom of Information Act request. A lease signed by the Metropolitan Police Department, which handles Bowser’s security, estimates that its total annual cost could come to $30,000 a year.
Sure, tens of thousands of dollars won’t bust the city budget, even if the idea of the mayor’s car costing as much as rent on a luxury apartment is hard to stomach. What LL can’t believe, though, is why these political leases had to be this expensive.
LL tried to play car dealer for a second and find a comparable Navigator lease online. Even maxing out the perks and signing up a two-year contract like the District, though, LL failed to find a lease that went much above $1,000 in monthly payments.
MPD Lieutenant Sean Conboy says the lease on the mayor’s Navigator is more expensive because they have to modify it to fit emergency equipment.
“The modifications to the vehicle make it more difficult to find a lease,” Conboy says.
If that’s the case, the government Navigator market has become pricier since the last administration. By comparison, Gray and Brown’s Navigators leased in 2011 for just a little over $1,900 a month. Even adjusting for inflation four years later, Bowser’s administration is paying nearly $300 more a month than Gray’s did for the mayoral SUV.
With all the change at the Wilson Building lately, there’s a comfort. The politicians may change, but their taste for Navigators—and the big bills behind them—will remain.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery