INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On Monday, Eric Holcomb became Indiana's 51st governor, telling the crowd he planned to build on the momentum from previous governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence.
Holcomb called the former governors "two tough acts to follow" as he takes the reins. Both Daniels and Pence were in attendance.
Holcomb has spent the last few months as lieutenant governor during the Mike Pence administration. He became the Republican Party nominee for governor in July after Pence dropped out of the race to become Donald Trump’s running mate.
Becky Skillman, former lieutenant governor in the Mitch Daniels administration, served as master of ceremonies for Monday’s event. Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats was originally slated to perform those duties.
In addition to Holcomb, Lt. Gov.-elect Suzanne Crouch, Attorney General-elect Curtis Hill, Superintendent-elect Jennifer McCormick and Auditor of State-designee Tera Klutz took the oath for their respective positions.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks the 51st time in our rich history that a new administration has taken this solemn oath, and for me it is an exciting opportunity. Because I have the great fortune of being the first governor sworn into Indiana’s third century," Holcomb said.
He said it would only be appropriate to reflect on the past as he and his administration work to take Indiana "to the next level." Holcomb reminded Hoosiers that their ancestors were pioneers who forged a state from an untamed wilderness with everything at risk.
"They built homes and communities, planted fields, constructed canals and roads to connect themselves to one another and to the new country, and established laws to govern themselves to spark the opportunity for prosperity for all," Holcomb said.
But a pioneer isn't limited simply to someone who "settled" a new territory. He mentioned several Indiana pioneers, including Eli Lilly, Madam C.J. Walker, Gus Grissom and late Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut, who blazed trails in their own respective ways.
"What all of these pioneers have in common are the same traits that have been part of our DNA for 200 years: self-reliance, grit, a can-do attitude, a sense of fairness, and a spirit of generosity," Holcomb said.
He mentioned that Hoosiers are known for their humility and touted the state's economic gains in the last few years. He called Indiana a hotbed for technological development and said the state was in sound financial shape with a triple-A bond rating and nearly $2 billion in its rainy day fund.
"We’ve become national leaders in business growth, and we’ve been landing jobs and business relocations that—10 or 12 years ago—were going to Austin or Boston or the Silicon Valley—practically anywhere but here. That’s no longer the case," he said. "Today, Indiana has three times the high-tech job growth as the nation as a whole."
He mentioned innovation in Warsaw--the "Silicon Valley of orthopedics"--and Indiana's position among the nation's leaders in life sciences. Holcomb said Indiana is a player in 45 of the top 50 industries that the Brookings Institute believes will drive growth in the 21st century.
"We’re not just competing any more; we’re winning!" he said.
Despite those gains, Holcomb said Hoosiers can't become complacent. He cautioned that too many Hoosiers and their families feel like they've been left out or in danger of being left behind.
"Rather than ease up, we must hammer down and maintain that pioneer spirit," he said, pledging to make Indiana a place where people would thrive in high-paying jobs and world-class education.
The ceremony featured performances from the Hanover College Concert Choir, a special touch for Holcomb, who is a graduate of the institution. Students performed the national anthem to begin the ceremony and "Back Home Again in Indiana" to conclude it.