The inauguration and swearing in ceremonies of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders went off without as much as mild hiccup.
The legislative honeymoon, even with polite pushback from the Democrats in a hastily called press conference headlined by State Rep. Tippi McCullough of Little Rock and state Senator Greg Leding of Fayetteville, seems will continue at least until after the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday is over and lawmakers gather back on Tuesday.
Sanders began her speeches with a striking freshness of voice and direction. It was an emotional day as the daughter of a former popular governor.
"I am incredibly honored to be the 47th Governor, and the first woman governor, of the great state of Arkansas," she said.
She was quick to set a tone for many who believe so strongly in her conservative values and not just her personal values but the base values of many in our state.
"We will show the world that there is still a place in America where freedom reigns and liberty will never die, and that place is Arkansas," she said with a very emphatic tone echoing across the steps outside the state capitol.
She never backed down on the 10th of January 2023, to be a new day in politics, led by a new generation.
"The people of Arkansas in their vast wisdom have entrusted a new generation to lead," she said. "This is our moment. This is our opportunity. And you and I are leaders who our people have chosen to get the job done.
Paying homage to the office and to its newest occupant were former Democratic governors David Pryor and Mike Beebe. Along with her dad and former governor Mike Huckabee was the most recent GOP occupant of the executive suite, Asa Hutchinson. She was joined by both United States Senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton.
"It is an absolute honor to stand before you as the 47th governor, and the first woman governor of the great state of Arkansas," she said as all the 135 legislators packed into the House's chambers to witness her official swearing in.
"Arkansas has weathered its fair share of storms in recent years, such as the worldwide pandemic, shuttered schools, crippling inflation and rising crime, but that long night of hardship and heartache is breaking into a brighter tomorrow in Arkansas," Sanders said.
Sanders, in her remarks, tossed the legislative leadership an olive branch of encouragement to start off the session. "I couldn't ask for better partners in this endeavor," she said, referring to Senate President Pro Tempore Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado.
"Your partnership is the reason I know we will deliver for the people of Arkansas," Sanders said. "I want this Legislature to know that as governor I will always have an open door and an open mind. And like most of you...I don't care about getting the credit. I only care about getting results."
And later in the first day, with legislative leaders looking on, Sanders began by signing seven executive orders, giving the legislature firm parameters to follow and not dwell upon in the legislature.
Her toughest comments of the day came when focused on law enforcement and public safety. She said that any government that tolerates rampant crime has failed in its most important duty to secure the lives, liberty and property of its citizens, and "as of today, Arkansas will tolerate crime no longer."
"We will shut down the crime wave that has plagued our cities, and we will teach our children that the badge is a symbol of justice, the police are a force for good and our officers are heroes who are worthy of our highest respect."
She said there is much more progress that she and the Legislature can achieve as partners working together.
Sanders also issued a warning to the legislature.
"Make no mistake, if you send me legislation that grows our government at the expense of freedom, I will veto it without hesitation or remorse."
"As a mom of three kids, I have no problem saying no," Sanders said.
-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.