RALEIGH It took less than 10 minutes Saturday for Republican Pat McCrory to complete a journey he’d started years ago, from Charlotte City Hall to North Carolina’s governor’s mansion.
With his left hand on two bibles, McCrory took the oath of office as the state’s 74th governor in a ceremony long on pomp but short in duration.
“Our goal is not to get a title, our goal is to lead and govern and serve with a purpose,” he told an invitation-only crowd of around 100 friends, family and top state officials in the state Capitol. “And that’s what we’re going to start doing today.”
McCrory, 56, succeeds Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, who presented him with the state’s official seal.
Moments after taking his oath in the old House chamber, McCrory led his new cabinet and staff to the Senate chamber, where they were sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, McCrory’s elementary and high school classmate in Guilford County.
Saturday’s ceremony was a prelude to next week’s official inaugural activities. Reviewing stands have already been erected on the Capitol grounds for Saturday’s inaugural address and parade. Aides said McCrory took the unusual step of being sworn in early because he wanted to be in office before the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday.
About a dozen protesters gathered a block away to criticize what they called a private ceremony.
“We thought it odd, to say the least, that McCrory campaigned on transparency and openness and has a private swearing-in,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of the advocacy group Progress NC.McCrory is North Carolina’s first Republican governor since Jim Martin left office 20 years ago. He’s the first Charlottean to lead the state since Cameron Morrison in 1925. And he’s the first Charlotte mayor to win statewide office. Each of his four predecessors tried and failed.
Saturday’s ceremony had a Charlotte flavor.
McCrory was sworn in by N.C. Chief Justice Sarah Parker of Charlotte, using a family Bible and a George Durant 1599 Bible. Pastor David Chadwick of Forest Hill Church, a personal mentor to McCrory, gave the invocation. Former city council member John Lassiter, who managed McCrory’s first campaign for city council in 1989, acted as master of ceremonies.
After watching his cabinet and top staffers sworn in, McCrory issued his first order.
“Now,” he said, “let’s get to work.”
The first cabinet meeting is scheduled for Monday.
A father’s vision
For McCrory and his supporters, Saturday was a time for celebration, reflection, and more practical matters. Workers delivered a new mattress to the executive mansion for the governor and wife Ann.
“There aren’t pillows or sheets yet, but who needs it?” McCrory told reporters as he prepared to host a luncheon for family, friends and members of his administration at the mansion.
In the ornately decorated foyer, McCrory was asked how he felt to be in a position he first sought in 2008, the year he was defeated by Perdue, who became the state’s first female governor.
“I’m very focused and my feet are very grounded,” he said, “because I have people around me who will make sure I stay focused and grounded.”
McCrory said his thoughts also had turned to his father.
Rollin “Mac” McCrory was mayor pro tem of his hometown in Ohio, and an inspiration to his youngest son, who would go to city council meetings at age 8 to watch him. The senior McCrory died of cancer days after seeing his son first elected mayor of Charlotte in 1995. Pat McCrory’s mother Audrey died a few years ago.
He kept a photo of his father, sitting behind his mayoral desk, in his Charlotte office. Now he plans to put it in the governor’s office. He said his father may not have been surprised by his new job.
“I’m told by my brother that he anticipated this,” McCrory said, adding that he recently learned that his father had set aside a little money “for a governor’s campaign” for his son.
“I almost brought up my dad, and my mom, but I wouldn’t have finished my speech,” he said.
Listen, learn, lead
Until leaving office in 2009, McCrory served as Charlotte mayor for 14 years, longer than anyone. His political career started in 1989. Early that year, at a breakfast meeting of Republican men, he leaned over to Lassiter and confided his plans to run for city council.
“Really?” Lassiter said he replied.
McCrory asked Lassiter to run his campaign. He did, and has been a confidante ever since, even helping direct his recent transition team.
“I never would have predicted this point,” Lassiter said Saturday. “But I’ve watched him grow and watched him develop a set of skills that will allow him to be a wonderful governor for North Carolina.”
The new governor plans to kick off a tour of the state Monday that will take him to Asheville, Greensboro, Charlotte and New Bern.
“The objective,” he told reporters Saturday, “is to listen and learn and then lead. And show the people of this great state that we’re not just going to stay in the Beltline of this city (Raleigh).”
McCrory has laid out an ambitious agenda that includes tax and education reform, more jobs and energy exploration. Chadwick expanded on that in his invocation.
“(I’m) praying with great hope,” he said, “that four years from now North Carolina will have thousands more with jobs, thousands more children who are better educated and an economy that is booming and thriving, a state undivided (and) citizens filled with hope…”