SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gary Herbert kicked off what he says will be his last four years as Utah governor by highlighting on Wednesday the struggles of immigrants and the state’s efforts to reopen its national parks more than three years ago during a federal government shutdown.
Herbert, a Republican who’s been in office since 2009, was publicly sworn in Wednesday for another term at the state Capitol. Utah’s other constitutional officers — Treasurer David Damschen and Auditor John Dougall — also took public oaths during the ceremony.
After Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant administered the oath to Herbert, the governor gave a 15 minute speech. He did not dive into any specific goals for next four years, but instead reflected on the past, recounting how the state paid to reopen its national parks during the 2013 partial shutdown of the U.S. government.
He spoke of his childhood in Orem and how he made extra cash by delivering copies of The Salt Lake Tribune, saying Wednesday, “I never dreamed that I would one day show up on its pages as governor.”
Herbert drew parallels between the hard work of his parents and the challenges faced by Mormon pioneers in Utah more than 150 years ago. He said that same drive can be seen in recent immigrants, such as Sudanese refugee Yar Kuany Awan, who performed the Pledge of Allegiance at Wednesday’s ceremony. Kuany Awan escaped war-torn Sudan, became a U.S. citizen and now works at a medical device company in Utah, Herbert said.
“She truly exemplifies that the pioneer spirit is still alive and well in Utah today,” Herbert said.
Dieter Uchtdorf, one of the highest-ranking leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a benediction after the governor’s speech.
The pomp-filled ceremony also included a 19-gun salute, a flyover by the Utah National Guard and performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The oaths Wednesday were only for public show — Herbert and the state’s other top officials took their real oaths two days earlier, when their terms were scheduled to end. Instead of holding a public inauguration Monday, a state and federal holiday, the officials instead decided to take their oaths individually Monday to ensure someone was in office until a public ceremony could be held Wednesday.
Herbert, who handily won re-election last year, first came into the office when former Gov. Jon Huntsman left to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. Herbert, then lieutenant governor, served the rest of Huntsman’s term before winning his own four-year term in 2012. He has said that his newest term starting in 2017 will be his last.
If Herbert serves all four years of the upcoming term, he will be the state’s second longest-serving governor when he leaves office in January 2021, having served 11 years and about five months.