While the din of stubborn, immovable government permeated Washington DC, things were much brighter in St. Paul on Monday. We joined an enthusiastic crowd at Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul for the inauguration/swearing-in ceremony of Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan and the other state constitutional officers. The event was attended by many current and former state and local officials as well as family, friends and supporters of the new Governor and the state’s top administrators.
We’ve had a chance to meet with and hosted each of the past four Minnesota governors a few times but getting an invite to an inauguration ceremony was a first. Thinking this might be the only time it happens helped make it an easy decision to drive into St. Paul on Monday morning.
Several colleagues from around the state had the same thought, including the mayors of Austin, Ely, Fergus Falls, Worthington, Luverne, Marshall and North Mankato, as well as metro mayors from Golden Valley, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Walz campaign’s “One Minnesota” theme was well in evidence. Seeing those faces from around the state seemed to make it more than just a slogan. This is a governor from Greater Minnesota, something we have not seen since the days of Rudy Perpich. He seems to understand that the state is made stronger with a sturdy metro/rural connection and by embracing the resources and the needs of all corners of the state.
There was a nice tip of the hat and a standing ovation for out-going Governor Mark Dayton and also for former Governor Al Quie who is 95 and in good health. Their presence was a nice example of Minnesota’s wonderful heritage.
The ceremony lasted an hour and a half and was filled with optimism and looking to the future. There was an excitement that you don’t always see during the legislative committee hearings and floor sessions. Much was said about our state’s future and heritage. The new governor recognized teachers and emphasized the value of public education. The gathering responded enthusiastically when he pointed out the state’s need to invest in schools and students and talking about opportunities for all Minnesotans, no matter what their zip code is.
Following the ceremony, there were afternoon receptions at the state capitol, first for new Attorney General Keith Ellison, new State Auditor Julie Blaha and returning Secretary of State Steve Simon and then, under the dome, for Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. They were busy and crowded affairs with plenty of chatter and lots of good connections. We had a chance to speak with the new commissioners of Transportation, Agricul-ture as well as the returning commissioners of Revenue and Budget and Management and several legislators and other folks.
Minnesota continues to lead the country in many ways but there are plenty of challenges too. Our state, like everywhere in America, is changing. New people, new ideas, new needs, new opportunities and new challenges are knocking on the door. Despite the changes and challenges, there was plenty of optimism in the crowds on Monday.
The state’s new leadership inherits a budget surplus and a stable economy but has fallen behind in infrastructure investment and is in need of more education funding, especially for higher ed, which has been shorted for years. And affordable and available health care continues to be a huge concern for the whole state.
These are big challenges and will require much work but Governor Walz’s energetic style should be a good fit for all those tests. He also has plenty of experience and drew strong applause when, reflecting on the dysfunction in the federal government, he said, ”If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will.”
That’s what makes Minnesota the special place it is.
We put our dry and brittle Christmas tree to the test this year. Usually New Year’s Day marks the end of the balsam fir’s stay in our living room but this year with complicated schedules and a delayed Christmas gathering, we decided to put it to the test and leave it up though this weekend when all our kids and our grandkids could be home at the same time. The grandkids looked forward to having “another Christmas” and we had fun being together.
The tree had held up well, but its days were done, so later Sunday, the ornaments got taken down and packed away and the tree was hauled out and donated to the neighborhood birds for some winter shelter. The other Christmas things were put away for another year too. The flurry of activity even included some late afternoon time, during our extended January thaw, for taking down the outdoor lights.
Packing the holiday things away for another year is always comes with a bit of melancholy but it was a good ending to a fun weekend. And, like our grandkids, we’ll be looking forward to “another Christmas.”