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Inauguration 2021: Gov. Spencer Cox takes office

Gov. Spencer Cox was sworn in as Utah’s 18th governor and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson as the ninth Lt. Governor of Utah in an open air ceremony at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.

Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Petersen administered the Oath of Office to Cox and Henderson, as well as the three other statewide office holders, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Treasurer David Damschen and Auditor John Dougall.

Under the theme “One Utah,” Cox rejected the divisive partisanship that has been particularly prevalent in national politics and urged Utahns to work together to build a more inclusive, caring and respectful community.

“Conflict and passionate debate around ideas can be healthy, but contempt and contention will rot the souls of our nation and her people. And this division isn’t just ugly or unfortunate. It’s dangerous,” Cox said. “But there is good news. It’s not too late to fix this and Utah is the perfect place to make it happen.”

Lt. Gov. Henderson also gave an inaugural address – a first for a Utah lieutenant governor – highlighting her eight years of service in the Utah Senate and her commitment to serving all Utahns.

“I am ready to get to work with Gov. Cox, to extend the Utah dream to every person living in every corner of our great state,” Henderson said. “As I take on the responsibilities of Lt. Governor, I will be building on the work I’ve done in the Utah Senate as a fierce advocate for Utah families and Utah’s small businesses.”

The Tuacahn Center for the Arts, which regularly hosts musicals and stage performances, provided a dramatic red rock canyon backdrop for the ceremony. Gov. Cox wanted an outdoor venue in light of the pandemic, but he also wanted to show his concern for the entire state. It’s the first time that an inaugural ceremony has been held away from Salt Lake City.

Capacity at the outdoor venue is 1,920, but inaugural organizers limited attendance to less than 30 percent of seats in order to allow attendees to physically distance. The Utah Inaugural Committee worked closely with the Utah Department of Health to develop COVID safety requirements for the event including requiring attendees to test negative for COVID within 24 hours of the inauguration and to wear masks at all times on the Tuacahn campus.

A personal event

Broadcast live on all major Utah stations, as well as nationally on C-SPAN, the hour-long ceremony reflected the personalities of members of the executive branch.

Lt. Gov. Henderson requested the song “You Will Be Found” from the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” saying it encapsulates the theme of the Cox-Henderson team, that no one will be excluded. The BYU Young Ambassadors, whose members include a son of Lt. Gov. Henderson, Jimmy Henderson, sang the song by video.

First Lady Abby Cox is a fan of star David Archuleta, who performed a request of Gov. Cox’s, “Homeward Bound,” with classical tenor Nathan Pacheco, composer and singer Kendra Lowe, and Billboard charting cellist Nicole Pinnell, along with the Lux Choral Society joining virtually. The song is a favorite of Gov. Cox and his brother, who often perform it together.

Also by video, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed “America the Beautiful” and a combined band from Gov. Cox’s three Utah alma maters – North Sanpete High School, Snow College and Utah State University – performed the National Anthem.

Gregory Adiema, a recently naturalized citizen from Kenya, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Utah National Guard performed multiple roles, including presenting the colors, a 19-cannon salute and helicopter flyover, with Major General Michael J. Turley acting as master of ceremonies, a role the adjutant general has performed since the late 1800s. The Most Reverend Bishop Oscar Solis of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City offered the invocation. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered the benediction.

Governors reunion

After the ceremony, Utah’s four living governors – Gov. Cox, Gov. Gary Herbert, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Gov. Mike Leavitt — took a historic group photo backstage.

Following the historic photo session, Govs. Cox and Herbert participated in a time-honored tradition with the Utah Highway Patrol. After 11-1/2 years of service in his role as commander in chief, Gov. Herbert signed off duty, followed by Gov. Cox officially signing on for duty as Utah’s new “car one,” or head of the Utah Highway Patrol. Gov. Herbert and former First Lady Jeanette Herbert then left the event in their vehicle of choice, a golf cart.

The ‘One Utah’ drive

At the conclusion of the Inaugural event, Gov. Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson began their return to Salt Lake City, making their first stop at the Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore. The Territorial Statehouse is Utah’s oldest existing government building, and now one of 44 state parks throughout the state. It housed the December 1855 meeting of the Territorial Legislature, which was the only full session held in the statehouse. In December 1858, the seat of government returned to Salt Lake City.

During a 20-minute stop in Fillmore, Gov. Cox signed his first Executive Order, Executive Order 2021-1, which requires state agencies to review all occupational licenses to remove unnecessary barriers to work:

“Just as we don’t use the same software or computers we did even a few years ago, we may not need the same regulations over occupational and professional licenses,” Cox said. “It’s good to take inventory of state rules and cut red tape where it makes sense.”

After taking a few questions from the news media, the governor and lieutenant governor continued on to Gov. Cox’s hometown of Fairview. They made a brief stop at CentraCom, a telecommunications business owned and operated by the Cox family for the past 118 years.

The caravan continued to Spanish Fork, hometown of Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, where the new elected officials were escorted by firetrucks from the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds down Main Street and back onto I-15.

The procession ended at the State Capitol building. Standing on the front steps of the Capitol, Gov. Cox, Lt. Gov. Henderson, their families and newly appointed cabinet members and senior staff watched as fireworks lit up the Salt Lake City skyline. Similar fireworks displays were held in all 29 counties to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Utah’s statehood.

Gov. Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson began their first full day on the job on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.




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