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Large crowd gathers to welcome new regime

MONTGOMERY

Asking the packed Dexter Avenue crowd for patience and prayers, Ashland businessman Bob Riley took his place as Alabama’s 57th governor.

During his inaugural address, Riley sought the remedy to the state’s educational and budget woes in the &uot;spirit of Alabama,&uot; – urging lawmakers and voters to put aside party politics and work together.

&uot;I believe with all my heart that there is no challenge too great for us to overcome, but only if the people of Alabama put aside politics, race, religion or any barrier that stands between us and our goals,&uot; Riley said. &uot;Let us make a clear and decisive break from the past once and for all, putting aside our differences and coming together as Alabamians united for a common cause.&uot;

During his address, the 58-year-old former congressman chose to focus on what he considered to be the more positive aspects and accomplishments of the state, keeping away from the negativity that consumed Riley’s race against incumbent Don Siegelman.

&uot;Our education system is not the world-class system our children deserve,&uot; he said. &uot;Our economy is showing signs of weakness and a lot of people are disillusioned and are wondering if they could lose their jobs. We are facing a financial crisis in state government the magnitude of which we have not witnessed since the Great Depression and our tax system continues to unfairly prey on the poorest among us.&uot;

Riley said change would not come easy for the state, which had deteriorated from years of insufficient leadership.

&uot;I need your patience for we have a long and tough road ahead,&uot; Riley said. &uot;Our problems did not grow overnight, but have grown through seasons of neglect. They will not be solved by temporary fixes or patchwork solutions, but through fundamental change and reform.&uot;

Sworn in by controversial Chief Justice Roy Moore, the event drew a large crowd that flooded the Dexter Avenue location.

Also taking office Monday was Alabama's first female lieutenant governor, Lucy Baxley.

In her speech, she did not dwell on her historical achievement, but rather took the opportunity to call for a cooperative government, centered in improving education, business opportunities and medical care for seniors.

&uot;For far too long our state has seen its issues as us vs. them, rich vs. poor, black vs. white and Democrats vs. Republicans,&uot; Baxley said. &uot;Let us not wait to be told we are wrong. Our destiny is an Alabama where opportunity reigns, hope is universal and justice for all prevails.&uot;

Baxley served as state treasurer and is the ex-wife of former Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley.

The inauguration also saw the continuation of an Alabama legacy as George Wallace Jr. was sworn in for a second term as public service commissioner.

Wallace's father became governor in 1963 and went on to serve four terms.