HARTFORD, Conn. – Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (search) was sworn in as Connecticut governor Thursday and immediately pledged to "restore faith, integrity and honor" as she took over for John G. Rowland (search), who resigned amid a federal corruption investigation and threats of impeachment.
In a somber ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, Rell bluntly told residents that the scandal they watched unfold over the past year had "plagued our state for far too long." About 1,000 dignitaries sat on folding chairs to watch Rell take the oath of office, her left hand resting on a family Bible as her husband and two children stood by her side.
"It has been a time of profound disappointment and disillusionment," the 58-year-old Republican said during a 15-minute ceremony that was televised statewide. "It has been a moment in history that we never thought we would see, and fervently hope that we never see again."
Her first act as governor was to sign an executive order that imposes stricter ethics restraints on executive branch employees.
Within moments of the inaugural, everything from road signs to Connecticut's official Web site erased Rowland's name and replaced it with Rell's.
Rowland did not attend the ceremony. He was seen at his new home greeting a cable television installer who showed up about five minutes after Rell delivered her address.
Rowland, once a rising star in the Republican party, resigned last month rather than face impeachment proceedings for taking gifts from state contractors, friends and politically appointed employees.
The scandal broke after Rowland admitted accepting renovations at his lakeside cottage, including a new hot tub. Other gifts and favors soon came to light: cigars, champagne, free or discounted vacations, a vintage Fort Mustang convertible. Rowland has insisted he never did anything in exchange for the gifts.
Rowland, 47, has kept an extraordinarily low profile since his resignation. He and his wife spent much of their time packing their belongings to prepare to leave the executive residence in Hartford — their home of nearly 10 years — and move to a single-family house in neighboring West Hartford. Rowland has not said what he plans to do next.
Rell, who became only the second woman to serve as governor in Connecticut, will serve out the remainder of Rowland's third term, which expires in January 2007. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan (search), a Democrat, was later sworn in as lieutenant governor.
"Gov. Rell has already made a brand new start," Sullivan said. "It is our time to give her our support. And I pledge to do just that."
Rell had appointed an ethics czar earlier in the week. And she became governor on the same day new laws took effect that increase ethics fines and statute of limitations for filing ethics complaints. The laws, passed in response to the Rowland scandal, are separate from Rell's ethics initiatives.
Ordinarily, the gubernatorial inaugural is in the dead of winter and marked by a parade through Hartford's downtown. This time, it was a short ceremony in sweltering temperatures that was followed by a 19-gun salute but no black-tie inaugural ball.
"Today, we begin to restore faith, integrity and honor to our government," Rell said. "It is our solemn obligation. It will be our lasting legacy."
Pat Bandzes forced her 15-year-old son out of bed early just so they could get a good seat for the inaugural.
"It's a historic moment and we'll look back on this one day and be glad we did it," said Bandzes. "I couldn't let him sleep through it."