INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence called on Hoosiers in his inaugural address Monday to make Indiana a "torch of opportunity and hope, inspiring our people and inspiring our nation.
"Indiana has emerged as a torch of fiscal responsibility, innovation and reform admired across America," Pence said. "While many of our sister states, some on the coasts and some nearby, are struggling, our state is poised for an era of growth like no other in our lifetime - this is our time to shine."
Pence was sworn in as Indiana's 50th governor at 10:26 a.m. region time.
Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, administered the oath of office to the silver-haired Republican atop the west steps outside the Statehouse in front of some 2,000 bundled-up Hoosiers.
While the sky was partly cloudy and the temperature below freezing, Pence was full of sunny optimism. He vowed to work with all Hoosiers to "write the next great chapter of Indiana history."
"I am humbled by your trust, honored that you've chosen me to serve and I am eager to be the governor of all the people of the state of Indiana," Pence said. "I say without apology, Indiana is the heart of the heartland because Hoosiers are the best people on Earth."
The new governor said he would be "bold, optimistic and relentless" in leading the state, but did not delve into specific policy proposals during his 13-minute speech. He instead reiterated familiar themes from his campaign.
"We must continue to live within our means, hold the line on spending and let Hoosiers keep more of their hard-earned income," Pence said. "We must work together to put kids first; you know there's nothing that ails our schools that can't be fixed by giving parents more choices and by giving teachers more freedom to teach."
However, instead of asking for votes, Pence asked for help, explaining the effort to improve Indiana requires the work of all Hoosiers in whatever capacity they can contribute.
"Each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a torch to light. Whatever it is you can do, do," Pence said. "Improve yourself and you will improve your state."
The 45-minute inauguration ceremony also featured the swearing-in of Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, a former state representative from Ferdinand and the third consecutive woman to serve in that post, as well as Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a New Albany Republican beginning his second term.
In a different twist on the Hoosiers coming together theme, Zoeller pledged to work with the legislative, executive and judicial branches of Indiana's government to defend the state's rights against the federal government.
"Under our constitutional system of federalism, we must strengthen and reassert our role as part of the necessary checks and balances on our federal government," Zoeller said. "In my view, we must do more to re-establish our state's sovereignty and push back against overzealous encroachment by the federal government."
Democrat Glenda Ritz, the new state superintendent of public instruction, attended the inaugural ceremony but did not participate. The Carmel teacher swore her oath of office in December and will participate in a second, ceremonial swearing-in on Saturday.
Two former governors, Republican Mitch Daniels and Democrat Evan Bayh, attended the ceremony, along with the widows of Gov. Robert Orr and Gov. Frank O'Bannon.
Pence recognized and thanked all the former governors and their spouses in his speech but saved his highest praise for Daniels, the outgoing two-term Republican who took over as president of Purdue University on Monday.
"It's a good thing I'm only succeeding you because no one will ever replace you," Pence said to Daniels.
Most members of the Indiana General Assembly attended the inauguration ceremony with several Northwest Indiana legislative leaders standing on steps near the podium, including state Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, the leaders of the House Democrats; and state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, chairman of Senate Democratic caucus meetings.
Arnold said he appreciated the bipartisan tone Pence took in his first speech as governor and hopes it will continue through the four-month legislative session and beyond.
"I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and we're going to do everything we can to see that it comes true," Arnold said. "I think we're off to a good start and we'll just play it by ear."
State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, who is, like Pence, serving his first term in state government, said he believes the six-term congressman-turned-governor will implement good policies to benefit the region.
"I think that he understands the importance of Northwest Indiana and he's going to make every attempt to make sure that area works up there," Niemeyer said. "I'm looking very forward to working with him and working for Lake County."
The governor and first lady Karen Pence began their day at a home they're renting in the suburban Indianapolis town of McCordsville. They joined campaign volunteers for breakfast at Indianapolis' Union Station before heading to the Statehouse for the inauguration.
Katie Stam, a Seymour native, who was Miss America 2009, sang the National Anthem during the ceremony. The Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Band performed the state song, "On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away."
Pence moved his personal items into the governor's office Saturday prior to that night's inaugural ball. More than 2,000 Hoosiers attended the party held at Indianapolis' J.W. Marriott Hotel, which is owned and operated by White Lodging of Merrillville.
The Pences are planning to move this month into the Governor's Residence in Indianapolis.