HELENA — Steve Bullock took office Monday as the state’s 24th governor, promising to build bipartisan bridges and do “amazing things” to improve the state.
The former attorney general was sworn in with his lieutenant governor, former National Guard commander John Walsh, and other statewide officeholders.
Bullock, 46, grew up just a few blocks from the governor’s mansion before launching a legal career that landed him in the attorney general’s office four years ago. He left after one-term to run for a governor’s office being vacated by the term-limited Brian Schweitzer, a fellow Democrat who introduced Bullock and said he wasn’t yet willing to say goodbye and instead left with a “see you later.”
Bullock took the stage after all the other statewide officers were sworn in during an outdoor ceremony on the Capitol steps that was preceded by a flyover from Montana Air National Guard fighter jets.
“The people of Montana have granted us an incredible responsibility and opportunity — the opportunity to make our state an even better place to live, an even better place to work or build a business, and an even better place to raise a family,” Bullock said. “Let’s meet this opportunity with passion, compassion, creativity and humility.”
A Legislature again led by Republicans took office Monday as it prepared to start work on Bullock’s budget. Campaign trail differences remain on how to cut taxes, fix a beleaguered pension system and allocate state spending.
Bullock promised to work with all lawmakers regardless of “partisan labels.”
“Before any of us were Democrats or Republicans, we were Montanans,” Bullock said. “And let’s never forget that the small businesses, the middle class families, the college students and the retirees who elected us to serve, they won’t measure our success by political points scored or zingers flung on the front page of the newspaper.”
The new leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate also pledging to work together and put aside past acrimony.
“I look forward to working with Gov. Bullock to find solutions that will move our state forward,” Senate President Jeff Essmann said.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and State Auditor Monica Lindeen — all Democrats — were sworn in for second terms. The lone Republican on the Land Board, Attorney General Tim Fox, took office too.
Bullock told Fox in his inauguration speech that he looks forward to working with him to “expand opportunities for Montana families.”
Bullock said Montanans expect safe schools and a good education, good jobs and access to the state’s treasured outdoor resources.
“In the years that come, together, we will do amazing things,” Bullock promised. “We’ll improve our schools and, by doing so, expand opportunities for Montana businesses and workers. We’ll continue to grow our economy, foster 21st century industries and create jobs that didn’t even exist when we were children.”
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