INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Pence became Indiana's 50th governor on Monday, taking the oath in subfreezing conditions on the Bible Benjamin Harrison used when he was sworn-in as president in 1889.
The six-term Republican congressman from Columbus used his inaugural address from a Statehouse balcony in front of a crowd of supporters and state officials to call upon all residents to help better the state.
"Each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a torch to light," Pence said. "Whatever it is you can do, do. Improve yourself and you will improve your state. Invest in Indiana with your time and talent. Tell Indiana's story. If you have a job, work at it as never before. If you serve the people, serve with all your heart. If you can build a business, do. If you can start a business, try."
Pence credited outgoing Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels for leaving the state in good condition after his eight years in the state's top office. But Pence said state government must remain bold because many families and businesses are struggling to get by.
Pence followed Daniels it taking the oath on Harrison's inaugural Bible. He was the only president in U.S. history to be living in Indiana at the time he was sworn-in.
Pence told the crowd of about 1,500 people that he wanted to give parents more choices in the education of their children and seek to strengthen institutions that nurture the family. The crowd cheered occasionally through the 13-minute speech, with the sound of clapping muffled by their gloves and mittens.
Pence's speech lacked the specifics of how would take Indiana from "good to great", as he so often says, relying more on lofty rhetoric similar to what he used on the campaign trail. The new governor is expected to roll out those details in his first State of the State speech, scheduled for Jan. 22.
He threaded his speech with the history of Indiana and drew analogies between the torch on the state flag and its place in the nation, saying he wants Indiana to "become a torch of opportunity and hope" that inspires the nation.
The governor planned to sign a series of executive orders Monday and meet with top lawmakers to brief them on his first-year legislative agenda. His staff was scheduled to deliver its first budget to lawmakers Tuesday.
Top members of Pence's administration were still unpacking in the Statehouse Monday morning. And a few key posts — including the heads of the Department of Child Services and the Family and Social Services Administration — have yet to be filled.
Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb heaped praise on the man he helped elect last year, saying "we have officially passed the torch from one great Republican governor to our next great Republican governor."
Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker was cordial, but more reserved: "We wish Governor Pence the best on his first day in office, and we look forward to seeing his full legislative agenda soon. We hope it will focus, as he pledged, on jobs and the economy and not on issues that will divide our state and put certain Hoosiers at a significant disadvantage."
Pence and his wife, Karen, started their day at a breakfast gathering of campaign supporters after a weekend of activities that included an inaugural ball Saturday night at the Indiana Convention Center attended by about 1,800 people.
Pence narrowly defeated Democrat John Gregg in November after a campaign that focused largely on jobs and education. He has said improving the economy and bringing more jobs to the state are his top priorities.
Also being sworn into office were new Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and re-elected Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller. New Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz plans her own formal ceremony at the Statehouse on Saturday.
Pence and his wife plan to live in the governor's residence on the north side of Indianapolis, which Daniels and wife Cheri never occupied.
Daniels is taking over as the new president of Purdue University.
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