Promising a "fresh start" for state government after months of scandal, Mike Parson was sworn in Friday evening as Missouri's 57th governor.
"My pledge to all Missourians is to work hard each and every day to bring honor, integrity, transparency to the Governor’s Office," Parson said moments after taking the oath of office, later adding: "Now is the time for Missouri to come together, to work together and to help one another."
Parson is a farmer from Bolivar and former sheriff who served 11 years in the General Assembly before being elected lieutenant governor in 2016. He takes over for Eric Greitens, who stepped down at 5 p.m. Friday as part of a plea deal to dismiss a felony charge associated with allegations that he stole a veterans charity's donor list to use for his 2016 campaign.
Greitens also was facing the possibility of impeachment and removal from office.
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While he never used Greitens' name, Parson vowed to strike a different tone than his predecessor, whose combative style translated to near constant public squabbles with the media and lawmakers from his own party.
Parson answered three questions from reporters after he was sworn in, while Greitens has avoided answering any questions from the media for months. And Parson was ready to heal the rift with the legislative branch, leaning on his years working alongside legislators before becoming lieutenant governor.
"It’s about relationships," Parson said. "'That’s what makes true leaders."
Greitens may have been on his way out, but he finished his 17-month administration at a breakneck pace, signing more than half of the bills sent to him by Missouri lawmakers.
Among the most high-profile bills Greitens signed: so-called revenge porn legislation making it a felony to threaten to disseminate or distribute a sexually explicit image taken without consent.
Greitens still faces possible criminal charges stemming from allegations that he took a nude photo without consent of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015 and threatened to release it if she ever discussed the relationship. A judge assigned Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to review the allegations to consider filling charges.
The new law can’t be applied retroactively to Greitens.
Greitens also signed a bill cutting taxes on corporations and another placing strict new regulations on public employee unions.
Parker Briden, Greitens' press secretary, said Greitens signed 77 bills on Friday. According to the Missouri Senate, lawmakers passed 144 bills this year.
Greitens also pardoned five people and commuted four sentences.
Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said some may want to dwell on the past, "and I realize it is sometimes hard to let go of any animosity developed during this time."
Hoskins called Parson a "good man with a true public servant's heart" who he believes will "lead Missouri to even brighter days to come."
Before taking the oath of office, Parson participated in a small prayer service at a Baptist church just down the street from the Capitol. His pastor from his hometown church opened the service with a prayer hoping Parson can be a "healing peacemaker."
Parson's brother, Kent, a pastor from Elkton, said his brother will get a lot of advice and see a lot of polls. He instructed him to "listen to your heart" and he won't be led astray.
The new governor said Missouri has an opportunity for a new beginning.
"I am optimistic about the future of our great state," Parson said, "and looking forward to the work ahead."