Gov. Gary Herbert took the oath of office Monday as the 17th governor of the state, noting Utah’s resilience in the face of challenges and calling on residents to draw inspiration from the state’s pioneer settlers.
"I see people and families who face their own unique challenges with courage and determination, showing charity and compassion for neighbors and a steely-eyed commitment to move forward," Herbert said.
"We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and we should all strive to make things better for those who come after us," he said.
The event also served as the inaugural for Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, Attorney General John Swallow, and State Treasurer Richard Ellis. State Auditor John Dougall was sworn in during a private ceremony earlier in the day so he could get to work.
Herbert told stories of Dave and Janice Taylor, modern-day Utahns who had lost their homes and possessions to the Wood Hollow Fire last summer and still spearheaded firefighting efforts, comparing them to pioneers who overcame seemingly impassable obstacles.
Comparing it to the economic turmoil of recent years, Herbert said that when things seemed to have reached the bottom, that’s when Utahns need to push ahead and begin the process of rebuilding.
"Like the pioneers, I recognize we still have a ways to go. To each of you, I say: Have courage. Have faith," Herbert said. "Utah’s economy is recovering and is growing once again. We are making progress and we will reach our destination. We are stronger because of our difficult climb, because from adversity comes strength and from strength comes success."
Utah’s unemployment rate stands at 5.1 percent, down from 7.9 percent when he took office and a high of 8.3 percent in January 2010.
It marks the third time Herbert has taken the oath since inheriting the office in 2009 when his predecessor, Gov. Jon Huntsman, became the U.S. Ambassador to China. He had been sworn in twice previously as lieutenant governor.
It will be Herbert’s first full term in office, which he won in a decisive victory over Democrat Peter Cooke, winning more than 68 percent of the vote.
Herbert is focused on education in the coming year, with his budget proposal calling for nearly $300 million in additional funding for education.
But the governor’s address was devoid of much in the way of policy discussion or vision for the coming term, aside from praising the private sector and free enterprise.
The event included performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the One Voice Children’s Choir, a 19-gun salute and flyover by the Utah National Guard.
The event was attended by three former governors — Gov. Norm Bangerter, Gov. Olene Walker and Huntsman — as well as Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and members of the congressional delegation.
Huntsman said it is good for Herbert to finally have a full four-year term in office and he is optimistic that Utah’s economy will recover under Herbert. Huntsman said he picked Herbert as his lieutenant governor because he understood the importance of local government.
"In part, he’s still a local elected official. He hasn’t forgotten the grass roots and he always used to preach the concept of bottom up. He was right then and he’s right now," Huntsman said. "He’s never broken from that and I think it has served the state well and will continue to serve the state well."
Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said the luxury of not having to worry about another election for four years lets Herbert focus on his priorities — education, energy and the economy.
"I think the possibilities for Governor Herbert are exciting, now that he has a full term of four years, to set both short- and long-term goals and determine what he wants his legacy to be," Jowers said. "I think a governor really needs to have at least a four-year block to make meaningful legacy-type change in a state and I know Governor Herbert is eagerly looking at what he can get done."
During the campaign, Herbert did not rule out the possibility of running for re-election in 2016.
Incoming Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said he hopes that Herbert and the Legislature focus on Utah’s long-term outlook when making policy and don’t fall into the typical reactionary ways common in politics.
"Let’s look at policy on a long-term basis," Niederhauser said. "How is the policy today and what we’re discussing today going to affect Utah ten years from now. We need a better context for our policy."Next Page >
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