INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Gov. Mike Pence took the oath as Indiana’s 50th governor Monday, with the Columbus native making references to Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom and Hoosier basketball legend John Wooden’s optimism, while vowing to seek God’s guidance.
“This is Indiana’s moment. We can once again light the way,” Pence said, pledging to create jobs and continue what he described as outgoing Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ legacy of “fiscal responsibility, innovation and reform.”
“I am humbled by your trust, honored that you have chosen me to serve, and I am eager to be the governor of all the people of Indiana — young and old, city and country, rich and poor,” the 53-year-old Pence said to a crowd of nearly 1,000 onlookers.
Pence’s 12-minute inaugural address came after brief swearing-in ceremonies for a pair of fellow Republicans, Attorney General Gregory Zoeller, re-elected to a second term last fall; and Lt. Gov. Susan J. Ellspermann.
Pence made frequent references to touchstones that had marked his gubernatorial campaign — job creation, service to God and state, humility and reverence for family values.
“We are all Hoosiers,” Pence said as his wife, Karen, and his three children — Michael, Charlotte and Audrey — looked on during ceremonies on the western steps of the Capitol.
“Permit me to begin by thanking God, whose grace and mercy have sustained us every day that we have served the people of Indiana and sustains us still,” Pence said.
“No one pretends that times are easy or that the challenges we face are small. But we Hoosiers are a resilient lot,” he said.
“With so many families and businesses struggling just to get by, we have no choice but to remain bold, optimistic and relentless in our work until good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families become the hallmark of every community in this state,” Pence said.
In her brief remarks, Ellspermann made reference to her “small-town roots and Catholic faith” as guiding principles that would color her service to the state.
Pence, too, made reference to his faith during the inaugural speech and earlier during a 9 a.m. breakfast honoring campaign volunteers at the Grand Hall of the Conference Center at Union Station downtown.
At the breakfast, Pence said the decision to run for governor came two years ago after many family discussions and “lots of prayer.”
“I had some pretty big dreams growing up, but I never dreamed this big,” said Pence, who served 12 years in Congress before his election as governor.
He wasted little time getting to work after the inauguration concluded shortly before noon.
By 3 p.m. he had issued 15 executive orders and met in his second-floor governor’s office with legislative leaders, including the top two members of his party, House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis and Senate Republican leader David Long, of Fort Wayne. Also taking part in the informal meeting were Democrats Timothy Lanane of Anderson, the Senate minority leader, and House minority leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City.
One of Pence’s first executive orders played to the theme of family.
The directive calls for a half-dozen state agencies, including the departments of Health, Workforce Development, Family and Social Services and Child Services, to review the impact of regulations on “intact married families” and create a family impact statement whenever crafting new procedures.
Pence said the order isn’t meant to demean any other families, including those in which children are being raised by single moms.
“My own wife, Karen, was raised by a single mom,” Pence said when questioned by reporters during an impromptu news conference.
During his inaugural remarks, Pence said he would act as a “servant leader,” listening to others’ opinions before deciding on a course of action.
Pence remembered that Lincoln, who lived as a boy in Indiana, called the state’s geography “a wild region, with many bears and wild animals in the woods.”
“But here he learned the Hoosier values that would guide his life and service and would lead our nation through the fiery trial of the Civil War,” Pence added.
Temperatures near 20 degrees failed to chill the enthusiasm of spectators who filled three sets of bleachers and stood on a nearby plaza as Pence was sworn in.
“For many Americans, today is (a) time of uncertainty. It is a time where the disconnect between those who serve and the served has never seemed wider. Where the common sense of everyday people seems absent from public life.
“But not here in Indiana. Indiana has chosen a different course,” the new governor said.
He added: “As legendary Hoosier John Wooden said, ‘Make each day your masterpiece.’”
“The time is now and the air is cold, so let’s get back inside and get to work,” Pence concluded before ducking inside the Capitol hallways to greet well-wishers.