LANSING – Echoing the words of President John Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, Jennifer Granholm urged Michiganders to get involved in the political process, telling them, “You, in your hands, hold the power to change the world.”
Granholm, 43, was sworn in Wednesday just before noon as Michigan’s first female governor, becoming the second Democrat to hold that post in 40 years.
Her inauguration capped a meteoric rise in Michigan politics for the Northville resident, who began serving in elective office only four years ago, as the state’s attorney general. She had previously served as Wayne County corporation counsel and assistant U.S. attorney.
Sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol by Judge Damon Keith of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Granholm and various other top state officials, after a 21-gun salute and a flyover by four Air National Guard jets, then proceeded to the Lansing Center for their inaugural addresses.
Michigan’s new governor commenced her address with an optimistic outlook.
“The door has been opened, so bring in an air of innovation,” she said. “The door has been opened, so breathe a renewed air of citizen patriotism, duty and service to one another. The door has been opened, so bring in an air of possibility and of hope.”
Her address followed a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, performed by famed Motown singer Aretha Franklin.
During her address, Granholm predicted the first part of her term would prove difficult, as she will have to find ways to close a more than $1 billion hole in the state budget. Granholm has said “pain” will be felt by many dependent on state government services as long as the budget problems exist. She has pledged to use tax increases only as a last resort and to instead focus on economic development to boost revenues into state coffers.
“Government will be great and it will do great, but it will take much more than government to enhance our quality of life, especially in these tough, tight, trying economic times,” she said. “It will take all of us working together as a family. And, as a family, I know that you will engage with me in setting our priorities, in deciding what is most vital for the public good.”
Granholm replaces Republican John Engler, who held the top office for 12 years and was lauded by business groups but almost despised by labor and environmentalist organizations. She faces a Legislature with Republican majorities in both chambers – 22-16 in the Senate and 62-48 in the House – and Republicans controlling the offices of attorney general and secretary of state.
Clio Democrat John Cherry, who replaced Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, cautioned attendees not to expect a lot of new initiative in the first or second year of the administration.
“We have enormous fiscal challenges that will cause us to hit the pause button on some of the plans and programs that we promised,” Cherry, a former minority leader in the Senate, said. “We must deal first with the budget and then get to work on our initiatives to protect our families and educate our children.”
A new secretary of state
Terri Land, Michigan’s new secretary of state, promised to follow in the footstep of her predecessor, Candice Miller, in improving the office responsible for administering state elections and overseeing vehicle licensing and registration.
Sworn in by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, Land promised to implement a “flex time” program for her employees – a staggered work hour system that would allow branch offices to stay open later.
“I will work to make the secretary of state’s office responsive just like we did in Kent County,” she said.
Among her priorities: Putting more Department of State functions online, assuming local police departments’ responsibility for towing abandoned cars and the county clerks’ task of issuing concealed weapons permits. Land also wants to make it easier for state residents to obtain absentee ballots.
Cox to focus on child support
Livonia’s Mike Cox, whose campaign for attorney general had been all but written-off until the last few weeks before the Nov. 5 election, was sworn in as the state’s top lawyer Wednesday, ending the 48-year Democratic hold on the Department of Attorney General, which ended when Granholm assumed the title of governor. Cox was sworn in jointly by Corrigan and his brother, Wayne County Circuit Judge Sean Cox.
Cox, former head of the homicide unit in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, pledged to place a heavy priority on involving his office in child support collection and said he would soon establish a child support division within the department to assist the Family Independence Agency in collecting from delinquent parents.
“Every day in Michigan – and today on inauguration day – over 600,000 children, 600,000 children wake up in Michigan not knowing if they will receive the child support they deserve,” he said. “As attorney general, I will protect these children.”
“I’m going to bring in some people (to the department) who will start going after deadbeat parents,” he said in an interview after the address.