Colorado swore in its 42nd governor Tuesday. Democrat John Hickenlooper took the oath of office in a chilly ceremony outside the state capitol.
The pomp and circumstance surrounding Hickenlooper’s inauguration included everything from a cannon salute, to a traditional blessing administered by leaders of the Southern Ute tribe. The new governor and other statewide officials shivered through single-digit temperatures to take their oaths of office.
Incoming House Speaker Frank McNulty described this as a time to celebrate democracy.
MCNULTY: "Today is also about public service. Stepping forward to serve your friends and neighbors is something that we cherish greatly and something that we appreciate in the in-coming administration."
As McNulty spoke, the flags above him were at half staff, honoring the victims of Saturday’s attempted assassination in Arizona. There was little specific reference to the shootings, but lots of talk about bipartisanship and civility.
HICKENLOOPER: "Today, perhaps more than ever, our relations must be defined by respect, our discourse must be civil and tolerant."
Hickenlooper didn’t make any big policy announcements in his speech. He stuck to his campaign focus of economic growth and to that end announced the creation of a statewide process to develop an economic strategy from the county-level up.
Hickenlooper is also creating a volunteer “Ambassador” corps -- a program to help Colorado-friendly people and businesses outside the state talk up Colorado’s tourism and economic advantages.
HICKENLOOPER: "Now, by taking specific actions today, we want the people of Colorado to know, we heard you. And we share your sense of urgency to get Colorado back to work. We also heard you want a leaner and less partisan government."
To that end, Hickenlooper touted his cabinet appointments, which include several Republicans. They’re taking over during challenging times, to say the least. The state’s budget shortfall could total more than a billion dollars next year, leaving departments and agencies bracing for yet more cuts. Hickenlooper says his cabinet is ready.
HICKENLOOPER: "Their job will be to help us shrink government, while still being efficient and effective."
Hickenlooper acknowledged that times are tough right now, but offered an optimistic vision for Colorado’s future, saying the state has survived worse.
HICKENLOOPER: "...because we are resilient and undaunted. We’ll do it by working together in the best tradition of the West. Like every river runner knows, when you get into rough water, everybody paddles."
After the new governor finished speaking, much of the audience hurried into the Capitol to get warm and congratulate the new office holders. Republican representative Carole Murray says she was pleased with what she heard from new governor.
MURRAY: "Well I think it was a very appropriate ceremony. Everyone hit the right notes in terms of working together and focusing on jobs and the economy, and jobs and the economy, and jobs and the economy."
Across the room, representatives Andy Kerr, a Democrat, and Republican Mark Waller joked about how long the day’s bipartisan spirit might last. At least, says Waller, until lawmakers get through the start of the legislative session, with all its rituals.
WALLer: "Tomorrow is all about bipartisanship. It’s Thursday.” KERR: “I was thinking we could last ‘til Friday.” WALLER: “Hey, yeah, we might get til Monday."
In all seriousness though, Waller -- who’s about to become deputy House majority leader -- says he’s encouraged so far by the new governor’s commitment to cooperation.
WALLer: "In this circumstance I actually believe it’s going to happen, and I’m excited and curious to see how that’s going to work through the next session."
Waller will have a chance to see that soon enough, when the 68th session of the General Assembly convenes Wednesday to take up one of the state’s thorniest fiscal challenges in years.
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