LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — Michigan is ringing in the new year with a new governor for the first time in eight years.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took the oath of office Tuesday morning in a swearing-in ceremony outside the state Capitol building.
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The 47-year-old former state lawmaker from East Lansing is Michigan’s 49th governor. The Democrat is the second woman to hold the post in the state. Former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm served from 2003 to 2011.
Three former governors — Granholm, Republican Rick Snyder, and Democrat Jim Blanchard — attended the inaugural ceremonies, which began at 10:30 a.m. with a performance by the 126th Army band of the Michigan National Guard.
The theme for the celebration was “Building Bridges Together,” aimed at highlighting Whitmer’s commitment to diversity and focus on Michigan’s deteriorating road infrastructure.
Whitmer said Michigan’s problems are not partisan ones. She said potholes, clean water, great schools and better job skills “are not political,” and she pledged to be a “governor for everyone.”
Whitmer wasn’t the only one taking the oath of office. Her lieutenant governor, Garlin GIlchrist II, became the first African-American to hold the post in Michigan.
Dana Nessel was also sworn in as attorney general and Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state. The last time Democrats jointly assumed control of the top four offices was 32 years ago
School officials, university trustees and state court judges also officially took office Tuesday.
The ceremonies included a recognition of tribal nations, a parade of flags, an invocation by Rabbi Amy Bigman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, a 19-gun salute, a flyover by the Michigan Air National Guard and prayers by Pastor Solomon Kinloch Jr. of Triumph Church and Imam Sheik Ahmad Hammoud of the Islamic Center of America.
The new Democratic chief executive will still have to deal with a majority Republican House and Senate and that creates a new dynamic in Lansing that starts Tuesday.
“None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another,” she said. “Let me say that again: none of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s future because we won’t compromise with one another.”
Soon after being sworn in, Whitmer addressed what will be one of the first big issues that will define her time in office: the ability to get Republicans in control of the House and Senate to work with the newly elected Democratic administration.
Two House members elected in November to serve in the Senate seem to think that’s possible.
Sen. Roger Victory is a Republican from Ottawa County and says it’s a two-way street.
“I would refer to an opportunity that’s going to be placed in front of us. As I said again, there are things that we need to do to move Michigan forward and the opportunity of working together,” Victory said. “I believe should be in front of us and I would hope the new administration too.”
Fellow freshman Senator Winnie Brinks, a Democrat from Grand Rapids, is hopeful.
“The tone that I’m hearing is a tone of cautious optimism and I think there will be plenty of opportunities to find out where we stand in the next couple of months,” she said.
For her part, Whitmer made the case that policy, not politics, should be the guiding principal.
“I am so looking forward to working with you over the next weeks and months and years. We may belong to different parties but we are all here today for the same reason, we are proud Michiganders, first and foremost,” she said.
She has made it no secret that from her perspective, divided government means compromise, not gridlock.
“We can’t afford to watch government grind to a standstill. We’ve got to keep working. There’s some great things happening in Michigan. But there are some serious challenges. We’re up to it but we’ve got to do it together,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer and Gilchrist will return to Grand Rapids Saturday, Jan. 26 for the “Whitmer Winter Warmup,” a series of family-friendly events.
The Whitmer Winter Warmup will take place at the Grand Rapids Public Museum from noon to 2 p.m. Those interested in attending can RSVP online.
Leading the state isn’t enough for Whitmer. On Twitter Monday, she also shared her New Years’ resolution: a personal goal to walk 60K in 2019.
Meanwhile, former Gov. Rick Snyder has his own post-office plans. In a YouTube video posted over the weekend reflecting on his eight years in office, Snyder said he plans to travel more with his family next year.
“So if you talk about New Year’s resolutions, it’s to do whatever Sue says. I owe her that. I owe her some vacations. It’s time to catch up and I think there’s a family pool already started with how long it’ll be until she tells me to get out, because I will drive her nuts,” Snyder said.
On Snyder’s itinerary: a waterfall tour in the Upper Peninsula.