INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Pence became Indiana's 50th governor on Monday and quickly got to work signing a slew of executive orders and meeting with top lawmakers.
Pence took the oath on the west steps of the Statehouse in subfreezing conditions. He placed his hand on the Bible Benjamin Harrison used when he was sworn-in as president in 1889.
He used his first day in office to place a broad moratorium on new regulations and fulfill some other campaign promises. The new Pence administration will continue its work Tuesday, presenting its first budget to state lawmakers.
The six-term Republican congressman from Columbus delivered his inaugural address from a Statehouse balcony in front of a crowd of supporters and state officials that called upon all residents to help better the state.
"Each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a torch to light," Pence said. "Whatever it is you can do, do. Improve yourself and you will improve your state. Invest in Indiana with your time and talent. Tell Indiana's story. If you have a job, work at it as never before. If you serve the people, serve with all your heart. If you can build a business, do. If you can start a business, try."
Pence credited outgoing Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels for leaving the state in good condition after his eight years in the state's top office. But Pence said state government must remain bold because many families and businesses are struggling to get by.
Pence followed Daniels it taking the oath on Harrison's inaugural Bible. He was the only president in U.S. history to be living in Indiana at the time he was sworn-in.
Pence told the crowd of about 1,500 people that he wanted to give parents more choices in the education of their children and seek to strengthen institutions that nurture the family. The crowd cheered occasionally through the 13-minute speech, with the sound of clapping muffled by their gloves and mittens.
Pence's speech lacked the specifics of how would take Indiana from "good to great", as he so often says, relying more on lofty rhetoric similar to what he used on the campaign trail. The new governor is expected to roll out those details in his first State of the State speech, scheduled for Jan. 22.
He threaded his speech with tales of the history of Indiana and drew analogies between the torch on the state flag and its place in the nation, saying he wants Indiana to "become a torch of opportunity and hope" that inspires the nation.
Republican leaders, including party chairman Eric Holcomb, heaped praise on the man they helped elect last year.
"We have officially passed the torch from one great Republican governor to our next great Republican governor," Holcomb said.
How Pence wields that torch is still being determined.
His first acts as governor Monday included placing a general moratorium on new regulations and requiring certain state agencies to begin drafting "family impact statements" on any new regulations that are drafted. He also restructured an education labor relations board headed by an ally of former School Superintendent Tony Bennett to report to his office, instead of Bennett's opponent, new Democratic School Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
He later talked with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly about workforce development, an issue expected to take top billing during the 2013 session.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said they had a good meeting with Pence but did not discuss specific proposals.
"I think he has set a good tone. He wants to start, I think, in a very bipartisan fashion," Lanane said outside the governor's office after the meeting.
Top members of Pence's administration were still unpacking in the Statehouse Monday morning. And a few key posts — including the heads of the Department of Child Services and the Family and Social Services Administration — have yet to be filled.
Pence still was settling into his new office Monday afternoon. Framed pictures of his wife and three children lined the table behind his chair.
And sitting on the corner of his desk is an antique red phone — a hotline only his wife has the number for, a tradition dating back to 2001 when he started in Congress. He noted that was before cellphones became widespread and said he still stands when he takes her calls, garnering some laughs from the assembled press corps.
The formal work of government capped an extended weekend of revelry leading up to his inauguration.
Pence and his wife, Karen, hosted a family event for supporters Saturday at the Dallara IndyCar Factory and an inaugural ball Saturday night at the JW Marriott hotel attended by about 1,800 people, followed by a Sunday prayer service.
The Pence family began Monday at their McCordsville home and headed to the Statehouse, with a breakfast stop to thank his campaign volunteers at Union Station in Indianapolis.
Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker was cordial, but more reserved: "We wish Governor Pence the best on his first day in office, and we look forward to seeing his full legislative agenda soon. We hope it will focus, as he pledged, on jobs and the economy and not on issues that will divide our state and put certain Hoosiers at a significant disadvantage."
Pence narrowly defeated Democrat John Gregg in November after a campaign that focused largely on jobs and education. He has said improving the economy and bringing more jobs to the state are his top priorities.
Also being sworn into office were new Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and re-elected Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller. New Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz plans her own formal ceremony at the Statehouse on Saturday.
Pence and his wife plan to live in the governor's residence on the north side of Indianapolis, which Daniels and wife Cheri never occupied.