Nixon to take oath as Missouri's 55th governor

Sunday, January 11, 2009 | 4:30 p.m. CST; updated 8:31 a.m. CST, Monday, January 12, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Becoming governor has its benefits, Jay Nixon is learning, even within his own family.

Nixon will be sworn in as Missouri's 55th governor at noon Monday while placing his hand on the crumbling black leather cover of a family Bible that is hundreds of years of old. It's an heirloom he recently received not because of family birth order, but because of his election as governor.

Just as the old Bible is new to Nixon, Missouri's incoming governor is styling his inauguration as "A New Day for Missouri" — a phrase to be repeated in his inaugural address.

"We will acknowledge that there are challenging economic times for the state, but those challenging economic times provide us great opportunities to meet the economy of the future right now," Nixon, 52, said in an interview previewing his inaugural speech.

"I also think we want to set off this administration in a bipartisan tone," Nixon said. "The elections are over, it's time to work together."

Nixon, who served 16 years as attorney general, easily won the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election over Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof. He is succeeding Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, who chose not to seek re-election. He will be working with a Legislature led in both chambers by Republicans.

Partly because of the economy and partly because of his personality, Nixon's inaugural celebration is foregoing some of the frills of past events. It will cost well less than the $250,000 spent by Blunt four years ago — certainly nowhere near the $1 million bash thrown by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden in 2001, Nixon said. As in the recent past, businesses are picking up most of the tab.

Nixon planned a private banquet Sunday night for 150 to 200 of his political supporters. He was beginning inauguration day by taking his family — his wife, Georgeanne, and sons, Jeremiah and Will — to a private meeting with the Nixons' pastor at First United Methodist Church, just three blocks east of the Capitol.

The traditional inaugural parade will be led by grand marshal Shirlene Treadwell, a Columbia woman who is a member of the Special Olympics Hall of Fame, and the De Soto High School band from Nixon's hometown. It's one of 14 bands and drumlines marching in the parade. The Nixons plan to walk — not ride.

For the inaugural ceremonies, the national anthem will be sung by Plattsburg music teacher Carmen Breckenridge Bennett, who Nixon said was the best he heard through two years of campaigning across the state.

About 4,000 chairs are set up on the south lawn of the Capitol, where the inauguration will be held despite a forecast chance of rain or snow.

The oath of office will first be taken by the other statewide officials elected in November — new Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, new Democratic Treasurer Clint Zweifel, returning Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and returning Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

Nixon is to take his oath as the noon bells ring at nearby St. Peter Catholic Church. In a break from tradition, there will be no flyover from F-15 fighter jets. That's because their St. Louis-based National Guard unit is being converted to support the B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base.

What makes Nixon's inaugural Bible so special is its age. Between the yellowed pages of the Old and New Testaments is a Nixon family genealogy with the first entry dated 1794. The Bible traditionally has been passed on to the oldest son. Nixon's father was the youngest son, but one of Nixon's cousins thought he should have it because of his new job.

After the inauguration, Nixon plans a brief Capitol meeting with business leaders to discuss his economic plan then will greet guests at the Governor's Mansion before dropping by what he bills as a potluck dinner for the public.

Actually, Nixon's campaign will be providing most of the food. It has ordered 1,000 hamburgers, 250 pounds each of potato salad and baked beans, 125 pounds of salad and 20 gallons of ice tea. Members of the public are encouraged to bring store-bought deserts; homemade cookies and pies have been banned because of health officials' concerns about food-borne sicknesses.

The inaugural festivities are to be capped by an evening ball inside the Capitol. The Nixons plan to follow tradition by dancing to "The Missouri Waltz." Nixon says he has been practicing.


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