MUSGROVE PROMISES FORDICE HE WON’T LET HIM GET TOO LIBERAL
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Ronnie Musgrove offered handshakes of cooperation to House Speaker Tim Ford and Gov. Kirk Fordice, and wished his wife, Melanie, a happy birthday Thursday in his acceptance speech after being sworn in as the state’s 32nd lieutenant governor.
Standing at the speaker’s podium during a joint session of the House and Senate, Musgrove promised to “work hard, prioritize state functions and spending and work in a spirit of cooperation with the governor and the Mississippi House of Representatives to make the state a better place to live.”
He said when differences arose, “I will disagree with dignity and respect. I am now offering a hand to achieve this end.”
After shaking hands with Ford of Tupelo and Fordice, Musgrove smiled and said he made one more promise to the governor.
“I told him if he gets too liberal I will remind him he is supposed to be a conservative,” he said, referring to a remark the Republican Fordice made after the election. The governor had said he would remind the Democratic Musgrove that he ran as a conservative and not to get too liberal.
Thursday’s ceremony-filled event was intermingled with good humor in the crowded House chamber as the seven statewide elected officials were sworn in. Family filled the gallery to witness the event.
Besides Musgrove, Attorney General Mike Moore, Secretary of State Eric Clark, Auditor Steve Patterson, Treasurer Marshall Bennett, Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell and Insurance Commissioner George Dale also were sworn in by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Lee.
Fordice will be sworn in Tuesday.
The swearing-in ceremony began with committees of legislators escorting the governor and first lady Pat Fordice, Musgrove’s family and eventually Musgrove into the chamber.
All got nice rounds of applause, but the biggest cheers by House and Senate members were saved for former legislators who have advanced to other offices. These included former state Sen. Musgrove of Batesville, former Rep. Clark of Taylorsville and former Rep. Mike Mills of Fulton, who was introduced as the newest member of the Supreme Court. He was appointed by Fordice in December.
After receiving a standing ovation from House members before he was sworn in, Clark told Justice Lee, “I feel right at home.”
“You have been here before,” Lee told Clark.
Democrats hailed the election of Clark and the other six statewide officials as proof of the strength of the party.
“This is an historic day for Mississippi,” said Sen. Johnnie Wall of Greenville, who is chairman of the Democratic Party. “The Democratic Party could not have hoped for stronger leaders to take Mississippi into the 21st century.”
Musgrove said he thought the seven were elected because “we all offered ideas, solutions and plans to attack the problems of the state. I believe the people responded to ideas and not rhetoric.”
During his speech on the floor of the House, Musgrove talked of working to improve economic development for the state’s citizens, to advance the education system and to curtail the crime problem.
He also spoke of opening up the process of government and of elected leaders being held accountable.
He then recalled his elementary school days and his first-grade teacher who visited him in the hospital every day to prevent him from getting behind in school when he caught pneumonia.
“Over the course of my lifetime, I think back to that time. The lessons learned were more than academics. The lessons were about responsibility, service to our neighbors, commitment and preparation … Those lessons define what, I believe, we as leaders are called to do, what governing is all about,” Musgrove said.
Before being sworn in, Musgrove was introduced by Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory. Musgrove, who will preside over the Senate as lieutenant governor, was described as a consensus builder who was not afraid to take stands when he had to.
Speaking of the Senate, Bryan said, “Ronnie Musgrove can make our diversity our strength and not our weakness.”