Hickenlooper walks into governorship amid cold temps, burning issues

State officials sworn into office
The Colorado Statesman

It began, as it always has with him, with a walk. Halfway on their walk across Lincoln Park to the state capitol on Inauguration Day, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, stopped and took a look back, as if for one last goodbye, to the Denver City-County building and to the life of a big-city mayor.

Lt. Governor Joe Garcia is flanked by his wife, Claire, at left and Secretary of State Scott Gessler, right, at the inauguration ceremonies held at the state Capitol on Tuesday morning.
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Gov. John Hickenlooper looks at his wife, Helen Thorpe, after the swearing-in ceremony. Joining them is Claire Garcia, holding bouquets of yellow roses from the Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen of the Colorado National Guard.
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Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, the incoming administration’s pick for Commissioner of Agriculture, chats with Ritter administration Ag Commissioner John Stulp after state offi- cials were sworn in Jan. 11 on the steps of the state Capitol in Denver.
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Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb before the inauguration ceremony.
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Former governors Bill Owens, left, and Bill Ritter, right, share a laugh during the inauguration of Gov. Hickenlooper. Left of Owens is his daughter, Monica, and his former wife, Frances.
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Members of the Colorado National Guard fire off one of the 19 cannon rounds symbolizing the swearing-in of a new governor in Colorado.
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Attorney Frances Koncilja and MDC Holdings president Larry Mizel at the swearing-in ceremony.
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John Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, depart the Denver City-County Building, where he had just resigned as mayor, and head off on a short walk to the state Capitol, where he would be sworn in as Colorado’s 42nd governor.
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Incoming state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, front, and incoming Secretary of State Scott Gessler, walk down the steps of the Capitol before being sworn in.
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Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Republican, holds his hand in the air while being sworn in to a second full term in office on Tuesday. He is joined by his wife, Janet.
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VIPs Ken Tuchman, Larry Mizel and Rick Sapkin stay warm inside the Capitol on Tuesday after the sweating-in ceremony.

Moments before, Hickenlooper had signed his resignation letter as Denver mayor and was on his way to the capitol to begin his newest job, as Colorado’s 42nd governor.

The inauguration morning at the state capitol began with the sounds of cannon fire — the Colorado National Guard started testing the cannon at Lincoln Park at around 8 a.m., to make sure it would fire in the bitter cold. The temperature at the ceremony’s beginning, according to The Weather Network, was 16 degrees, and a 12 mph wind made it feel like 1 degree. The inauguration weather was believed to be one of the coldest on record.

To ward off the cold, the inauguration committee provided hand warmers to the more than 1,000 ticketed guests and to those outside the ticketed area. The weather played havoc in one other regard: A scheduled flyover by four F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard 140th Wing was cancelled because of icing problems at Buckley Air Force Base.

Tuesday’s ceremony was attended by Democrats and Republicans from the General Assembly and the Democratic members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. None of Colorado’s Republican congressmen was present.

The ceremony also included the swearing-in of Attorney General John Suthers, to his second term in office, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

The assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. and the killing of six others last Saturday in Tucson was on the minds of some of those who spoke during the ceremony. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, commented on the “peaceful transition of power. When jets fly overhead, we need not worry about bombs; when arms go up, they’re not fired in hate.” The shooting was referenced by outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter, who said that “as a nation, we must bend toward justice” and the spirit of bipartisanship. “When we fight, we fight for civil debate, not as enemies but as friends.” And Hickenlooper, who ran on a campaign that avoided personal attacks on his opponents, also asked for civility. “Our relations must be defined by respect, our discourse must be civil and tolerant.”

After his swearing-in, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia noted he was the “warm up act” for the governor. “Are you warm yet?” he shouted to the crowd. Garcia, who on Tuesday was named executive director of the Department of Higher Education, said the children of Colorado are the state’s most important resource, and the state must invest in them and their education just as it does in minerals, water, oil and gas, timber and agriculture.

Garcia also struck the bipartisan tone in his remarks. “Too often, government is characterized by some as the problem, or worse, as our enemy,” he said. But government is not the enemy. “It is wasteful government or inefficient government or government that lacks compassion that is our enemy. We need some appropriate level of government…not to control our lives but to insure order, safety and opportunity.”

Hickenlooper took the oath, administered by Chief Justice Michael Bender of the Colorado Supreme Court, at around 10:40 a.m. It was followed by a brief, 15-minute speech, in which Hickenlooper said his top priority is jobs. “We will help businesses expand and protect the jobs we have, we will attract new jobs, and we will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that has always defined Colorado” throughout its history, he said.

Hickenlooper said he planned to sign three executive orders later in the day. The first sets up a partnership between state government and local communities to create jobs and to come up with economic development plans, and Hickenlooper said he will start a four-day statewide trip Friday to begin that process. The second order sets up a volunteer ambassador’s program to promote the state, a joint effort of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Tourism Office, according to CTO Director Al White. The third executive order “provides for more flexibility and less bureaucracy” and tells the private sector “that we mean to cut red tape, make licenses and regulations more rational and easier to understand.”

State government will be leaner and less partisan under a Hickenlooper administration, he said. “We recruited people for our cabinet, independent of political backgrounds, who will put the state first and bring commitment needed to meet our fiscal challenges… their job will be to help us shrink government while still being effective and efficient” and without a partisan perspective. Under his administration Colorado will be defined as a “beacon of good government, where innovation and customer service is part of the daily exercise of every state employee,” and an emphasis on good government will be the “cornerstone of our economic revival.”

Sen. Minority Leader Mike Kopp said he was thrilled by Hickenlooper’s “commitment to reduce the size of government, reform burdensome regulatory policies and create jobs. It sounds a lot like our agenda. What’s not to like?”

“Colorado, like the country, faces a tremendous set of challenges; none being more pressing than creating jobs, which the people of Colorado need, and balancing the budget, which the people of Colorado demand,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “If anyone’s up to the task, it’s John.”

Senate President Brandon Shaffer said that with Hickenlooper’s “commitment to partnership we have clear marching orders: Work together and get it done.”

Some of the members of the freshmen legislative class for the 68th General Assembly, which began Wednesday, said they enjoyed Tuesday’s ceremony and look forward to seeing what the new governor accomplishes.

Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said she found the ceremony “touching,” especially seeing the previous governors and their families, and all of the people who help run Colorado’s government.

Rep. Daniel Pabon, D-Denver, said the ceremony was wonderful, despite the cold. “There was a lot of energy and heat, and we’re moving in the right direction for Colorado,” he said. The governor and lieutenant governor “gave us some great insight on what they’re doing, and I’m looking forward to seeing those executive orders.”

Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, told The Colorado Statesman that the inauguration was “an amazing experience — over the top!” Her husband, former Sen. Al White, said he thought Hickenlooper’s speech was great. “He highlighted all the reasons we live in Colorado and the efforts we all bring when we work together to overcome adversity, and we find ourselves in an uncertain and adverse economy right now,” he said. “It’s incumbent on all of us, no matter what party, to work together and pull in the same direction that benefits all of Colorado.”


Teddy Hickenlooper arrives on stage to greet his dad.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and his wife, Susan Daggett, wave to supporters as he departs the Capitol and gets ready to take his seat for the inauguration ceremony. FellowDemocratic Sen. Mark Udall is behind them.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Denver’s “first lady of opera” Ellie Caulkins bundles up with polar bears against the frigid morning temperature.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman