JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On a chilly January Monday, Gov. Mike Parson was officially sworn in as Missouri’s 57th governor, delivering a message focused on light and hard work to supporters and lawmakers gathered in front of the state Capitol.
The former law enforcement official vowed to stand in contrast to the dark times Missouri, as well as the country, has faced in the past year, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the assault on the U.S. Capitol last week. Parson promised, with temperatures hovering just above freezing, to “move Missouri in a direction of hope and opportunity.”
“We have seen some challenging days together but when it is hard to find the light, sometimes all you need is a spark to get the fire going again. Even in the darkest times, Missouri shines on,” Parson said.
Parson specifically promised to work for doctors, farmers, law enforcement, and teachers. He also said he would “care for the unborn to the elderly” while in office.
Most statewide officials as well as five of Missouri’s Republican congressmen were in attendance Monday. Also gathered on the steps of the Capitol were Parson’s predecessors: former Govs. John Ashcroft and Jay Nixon.
Nicole Galloway, the Democratic state auditor who challenged Parson in the 2020 election, also attended the ceremony.
Parson’s oath of office was administered by Judge Sarah A. Castle who serves on the 16th Judicial Circuit. She is the only judge who has been appointed to twice to positions by the governor.
The celebratory day was also a Parson family affair: The Bible used during the inauguration ceremony was a gift from first lady Teresa Parson. His granddaughter, Alicia House, and son-in-law, Dr. Jonathan House, sang the national anthem at the start of the ceremony.
The inauguration was the first major event in the state’s bicentennial celebration this year. The ceremony concluded with a tribute to Missouri’s entry as the 24th state in the U.S. nearly 200 years ago.
“From rural areas to big cities, Missouri offers so much to so many and others want to come to Missouri because of our values, our hard work, and our common sense approach,” Parson said. “That is the Missouri I know. That is the Missouri I love. That’s why I’m confident in our future.”
“I will continue working hard each day for all Missourians, and together, we can move Missouri in a direction of hope and opportunity,” he said.
In a moment of levity, the inauguration ceremony took a brief 15 minute break as it had been running ahead of schedule. Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, who donned a black coat and hat for the occassion, noted it’s rare for the Missouri Legislature to run on time.
Other statewide officials — Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick — were also administered their oaths Monday morning at the ceremonial event with their family members by their sides.
Parson first took over as Missouri’s governor in 2018 following the resignation of Eric Greitens. He previously served as lieutenant governor and in the General Assembly.
Prior to his work in the statehouse, Parson served in the U.S. Army for six years before working in law enforcement for more than 22 years. He served as Polk County Sheriff from 1993 to 2005.
“On behalf of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I congratulate Gov. Mike Parson as he is inaugurated today and continues his long service to our state,” Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said. “This inauguration day comes as Missouri is facing historic challenges as we work to contain COVID-19 and rebuild our economy. While this is an incredibly difficult time to be governor, we place our trust in Gov. Mike Parson. He has demonstrated a unique ability to focus state government on the things that matter most to improving our future — preparing our workforce, investing in our infrastructure and combatting this global pandemic.”
Officials had estimated as many as 2,000 people would be in attendance Monday. Most wore masks and guests were encouraged to social distance during the ceremony.
As of Monday morning, more than 423,000 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19, and nearly 6,000 people have died. In Cole County, nearly 300 people have tested positive over the past seven days with zero deaths.