PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee vowed to lead the state back to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic during a ceremonial inauguration held Sunday on the Statehouse steps in Providence.
“Together we’re going to keep Rhode Islanders healthy. We’re going to get us back to work. We’re going to get teachers and students safely back in the classroom. And we’re going to get our businesses back in business,” McKee said.
He pledged that the state will not only recover, but come back stronger.
“Thankfully the vaccines are here and we're getting shots in arms,” McKee said. “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is reason to have hope.”
The Democrat was sworn-in Tuesday night in a private Statehouse event following the resignation of former Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is now President Joe Biden’s commerce secretary.
McKee is serving out the remainder of Raimondo’s four-year term but has said he’ll run for governor outright in 2022. The 69-year-old served as the state’s lieutenant governor and is a former longtime mayor of Cumberland.
McKee thanked Raimondo for her leadership during the pandemic, and also acknowledged the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the state.
“Many have lost their jobs or lost a business that they have built for decades. So many have lost friends and family members to this virus. This past year has been hard on all of us,” McKee said.
“We must also remember the heroism and the resolve that Rhode Islanders have shown in our hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, our public safety organizations, local shops and our own living rooms each day and each night,” he added.
During Sunday’s noontime ceremony, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea swore in McKee using his family’s Bible. First Lady Susan McKee and the couple’s two grown children joined them for the ceremony.
Kara McKee, their daughter performed the national anthem, and a Rhode Island National Guard quartet played “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Other speakers included Tina Cane, the state’s poet laureate; Dr. Christopher Abhulime, pastor at King’s Tabernacle Church in Johnston; and Father Robert Marciano, president of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick.
Only members of the public who received an invitation were able to sit in the socially-distanced seating area. They were also required to undergo COVID-19 screenings and wear masks.