DENVER — Democrat John Hickenlooper became Colorado's 42nd governor Tuesday with a simple message delivered on a frigid morning — he'll immediately go to work on jobs and the economy.
Hickenlooper promised hundreds of people shivering in temperatures that hovered around 10 degrees that restoring the state's economy is his first order of business.
"We will chart a course for economic revival from the bottom up, county by county," said Hickenlooper, who signed three executive orders promoting jobs development after delivering his 16-minute inaugural address.
Hickenlooper joked after the address that he was so cold he couldn't feel his fingers to turn the pages of his speech. Spectators gathered at the Capitol's West Steps were given handwarmers, though attendance was light because of the icy weather. A flyover by military jets was canceled because of icing on the runways.
Four other statewide officials also were sworn in: two Republicans who unseated Democratic incumbents, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Republican Attorney General John Suthers took the oath for his second term, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia swore his oath.
Garcia will become Colorado's first lieutenant governor to also lead a state agency. Garcia, formerly president of Colorado State University-Pueblo, is heading up the state Department of Higher Education. Hickenlooper told reporters after his address that Garcia's appointment addresses complaints that the lieutenant governorship is a do-nothing job and that Garcia's service will save Colorado about $80,000 a year by not having to pay a separate higher-ed chief.
Double duty by Garcia just begins Hickenlooper's daunting task of saving money. Colorado faces an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, and Hickenlooper hasn't detailed what he plans to cut to balance the budget.
The new governor avoided specifics on cuts again Tuesday but noted he's no stranger to thrift. He mentioned his grandfather's Great Depression-era bankruptcy, but said his mother never complained about growing up in fiscal hardship.
"I never heard her complain or feel sorry for herself. She never blamed anyone," Hickenlooper said. The governor has cited his mother as inspiration for his own entrepreneurship. Hickenlooper was a laid-off geologist who struck gold by opening a popular Denver brewpub.
"I came here to study rocks and ended up selling beer for a living," the 58-year-old Pennsylvania native said.
After the inaugural, Hickenlooper and Garcia walked across the street for a lunch of grilled cheese and carrot sticks with about 300 schoolchildren. The children included contest winners who wrote songs and essays about Colorado.
Hickenlooper planned laid-back inaugural festivities Tuesday night, including a barbecue dinner and dance in Denver followed by a concert by OneRepublic.
In a nod to Hickenlooper's past as a brewery owner, more than a dozen beers were to be available at the Western-themed party. The beers included Wynkoop Brewing Co.'s "Inaugurale," a brown ale featuring Colorado malt.
After the party, Hickenlooper has some long days ahead. He'll face a divided Legislature when the GOP gains control of the state House on Wednesday. On Thursday he gives lawmakers more specifics about his plans in his first State of the State speech, and he starts a four-day statewide tour Friday.
Despite the fiscal challenges, Hickenlooper struck an upbeat tone in his typical goofy style about the prognosis for Colorado. After talking about the state's beautiful mountains, something no Colorado politician fails to mention, Hickenlooper lauded the state's highly educated work force.
"Plus, we have the best beer," Hickenlooper panned.
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