LANSING — Echoing the words of President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration speech, 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 today 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 in the capital city’s downtown 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 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 improve the state’s economy, thus boosting 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.
After her own swearing in, Granholm swore in Lansing Mayor David Hollister as head of a new state department that will focus on economic development, a combination of several existing state departments. Hollister, a former Democratic state representative, has served as Lansing’s top official for the past nine years, and has been praised for revitalizing the downtown area and attracting to the city a minor league baseball team as well as two General Motors Corp. plants.
Granholm also swore in other members of her Cabinet, including Mary Lannoye, Engler’s budget director from 1997 to 2001 — who returns to her old post — and Jay Rising, a former deputy state treasurer under Democratic Gov. James Blanchard, as state treasurer.
Other appointments made by the new governor: Environmental attorney Steven Chester as director of the Department of Environmental Quality — which Granholm wants to merge with the Department of Natural Resources — Lt. Col. Tadarial Sturdivant as state police director, Janet Olszewski as director of the Department of Community Health and William Overton and William Anderson, to continue, respectively, as heads of the departments of Corrections and History, Arts and Libraries.
“We will focus on the 3rd grade girl who wants to learn but whose potential still lies totally unseen,” Granholm said. “We will focus on the laid-off worker I met in Flint on Saturday, who asks for nothing more than good work to support his family. We will focus on the mentally ill uncle who winds his way in search of shelter on a bitter winter day.”
For the office of lieutenant governor, Clio Democrat John Cherry was sworn in to replace Republican Dick Posthumus, Granholm’s opponent in the gubernatorial race. Cherry, who served as Senate minority leader until this year, will be heading up legislative operations for Granholm.
“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 said. “We must deal first with the budget and then get to work on our initiatives to protect our families and educate our children.”
Granholm will have to work closely with Republicans, who now control both houses of the Legislature, as well as the offices of attorney general and secretary of state. The GOP has a 22-16 majority in the Senate and a 62-48 edge in the House.
Land becomes new secretary of state
Terri Land was sworn in as head of the Michigan Department of State, continuing an eight-year GOP hold on the office responsible for administering state elections and for overseeing vehicle licensing and registration.
Land, a former two-term Kent County clerk from Byron Center, will be second in line to succeed the governor, after the lieutenant governor. She follows Republican Candice Miller, who was prevented from seeking reelection due to term limits and was elected to the U.S. House last November. Land said in a recent interview that the State Department is expecting cuts and is looking for ways to absorb them, already having reduced the number of division directors from four to three.
Land, who was sworn in by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, 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.
Land also said she would put more State Department functions online, explaining, “The more customers we have online the less we have in line.”
Among her priorities: Assuming local police departments’ responsibility for towing abandoned cars and the county clerks’ task of issuing concealed weapons permits. She also wants to make it easier for state residents to obtain absentee ballots.
Land injected over $2 million of her family’s money into her race against Democratic Detroit attorney Melvin Butch Hollowell, who is now mounting a bid to be state party chair.
Cox to focus on child support
As far as the state’s fourth highest office is concerned, it’s the end of an era in Michigan politics. Democrats, who have controlled the attorney general’s office for the past 48 years, are ceding it to a Republican.
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 today, ending the longtime Democratic hold on the Department of Attorney General, which ended when Granholm assumed the title of governor. He was sworn in jointly by Corrigan and his brother, Wayne County Circuit Judge Sean Cox.
Cox 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.
Cox, until recently head of the homicide division in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, campaigned on a theme of shifting the department’s focus to include violent crime investigations and prosecutions, rather than mostly consumer protection-related issues. He made no mention of these proposals in his inauguration speech.
Although these proposals remain vague, at least one state legislator prominent in the area of setting crime policy said he was receptive to Cox’s ideas. Still unknown as of now is whether his proposals require legislation to go into force.
Rep.-elect William Van Regenmorter (R-Ottawa County), the outgoing chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said currently, violent crime prosecutions are handled by the 83 various county prosecutors. “But the attorney general is the chief prosecutor of the state and there are times when you have multijurisdictional issues between counties where the AG has to be involved,” he added.
Cox beat Democratic state Sen. Gary Peters by just 5,200 votes out of more than 3 million cast, a margin so small that Peters delayed his concession speech for weeks until it was clear a statewide recount would not have found enough votes for him to erase Cox’s lead.
Other officials sworn in
Various education board members and state court judges took office today. Joining the Court of Appeals bench were Wayne County Circuit Judge Karen Fort Hood of Detroit and state Sen. Bill Schuette of Midland.
There was no change in party control on any of the three elected university governing boards. University of Michigan Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor) was sworn in a few days ago, while outgoing state Rep. Andrew Richner (R-Grosse Pointe Park) was sworn in on the Capitol steps today, thus keeping three of the board’s eight seats in GOP hands (see related story).
Michigan alum Richard Bernstein of Farmington Hills will be the first blind man to serve as a university board member after outpolling fellow Democrat Leon Atchison, a longtime member of Wayne State University Board of Governors.
Democrats, however, did add to their majority on the eight-member State Board of Education, the governing board of the Michigan Department of Education. Sworn in to the board was Birmingham Democrat Liz Bauer, along with Evart Republican Carolyn Curtin. The board now has a 6-2 Democratic majority, following Bauer’s defeat of incumbent board Secretary Michael Warren Jr.