HED:Tuck, others sworn in

AUTHOR: BOBBY

HED:Tuck, others sworn in

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Lenore Prather of West Point, who was appointed in 1998 the first female chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, conducted the oath of office Thursday to Amy Tuck of Maben, the second woman in the state to be elected lieutenant governor.

As Tuck was sworn in, the other female lieutenant governor, Evelyn Gandy of Hattiesburg, was in the overflow crowd in the House chamber watching the ceremony.

Gandy, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1975 and lost a race for governor in 1979, called Thursday’s ceremony a great day for Mississippi because “I have long felt government should reflect the population of Mississippi.”

She predicted that Tuck “would serve with great distinction” and, while not elaborating, said she believes a female will be elected governor of Mississippi during the first decade of the new century.

Gandy said she never believed it would be this long from the time she lost the governor’s election to William Winter in 1979 until another woman would be elected to statewide office.

During her 12-minute inaugural speech, Tuck did not address the gender issue directly. Instead, she talked about the importance of public service and introduced 9-year-old Ronneccia Mackey of Port Gibson, whose mother had written Tuck a letter.

On election night on Nov. 2, “My daughter asked to stay up past her bedtime to see what the election results were going to be for you,” Ronneccia’s mother, Sharon Mackey, wrote to Tuck. “Once hearing that you had won, she shouted throughout the house and said, ‘Now mama, I can go to bed. My lady has won.'”

After introducing Ronneccia, who was sitting in the House gallery, Tuck said, “I hope that all of our young people will be so inspired and encouraged to consider public service because it is an honor to be a public servant and serve the people of the great state of Mississippi.”

Tuck barely lost a bid for statewide office in 1995 when she was defeated in one of the closest elections in history by current Secretary of State Eric Clark in the Democratic primary.

Tuck, 36, a former state senator and political science instructor, touched briefly on her campaign theme of improving education and working to bring better jobs to the state.

But, overall, the ceremony was not a time to talk about policy issues. Besides Tuck’s swearing in, the six other statewide elected officials also were sworn in by Prather.

The other six are Attorney General Mike Moore, Secretary of State Clark, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Lester Spell, Commissioner of Insurance George Dale, Treasurer Marshall Bennett, all Democrats, and Auditor Phil Bryant, a Republican.

The six Democrats were incumbents – all serving multiple terms. Bryant was appointed in 1996 to the post of auditor by Gov. Kirk Fordice, and was elected to a full term in November.

House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, banged the joint assembly of the Legislature to order. Ronnie Musgrove, who will be sworn in as governor Tuesday, presided in his last official act as lieutenant governor.

Family members of Tuck, her mother, Mary Lou, and her brother, Al, were on hand as well as many other family members for all the elected officials being sworn in. Musgrove’s family, his wife, Melanie, and their children, Jordan and Carmen Rae, also were in attendance even though the governor-elect admitted they should be in school.

The most noticeable no show was outgoing Gov. Fordice. It is customary to appoint committees of legislators to escort various dignitaries into the House chamber for joint sessions. Both the House and Senate appointed escort committees for Fordice and first lady Pat Fordice, but they were not in attendance.

“I just saw the governor, and he was busy packing,” Fordice spokesman Robbie Wilbur said. “I don’t know if that was a conflict. We are trying to get everything out of here and into archives. You accumulate a lot in eight years. “