COLUMBUS, Ohio — Now that Mike DeWine is Ohio's governor, could it finally be time for a new Brent Spence Bridge?
With Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in the audience of dignitaries for his inauguration speech Monday, DeWine gave a nod to his fellow Republican that signaled the bridge will be priority for his adminstration and that he's looking forward to working with Bevin to get it done.
"Thank you for being here. You and I have work to do," DeWine said from the podium to Bevin. "We have a little bridge that we need to build. Right, Governor?"
Bevin smiled and nodded several times in agreement.
"We're going to do it! We're going to do it!" DeWine said, prompting applause from Bevin and others.
Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou said he saw that as a very positive sign toward getting the bridge project off Square One.
"His mentioning our bridge right out of the gate was hugely important," said Triantafilou.
Bevin has already acknowledged a willingness to work with DeWine more than he ever did with former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Triantafilou said DeWine is the game changer.
"We see a real opportunity for Southwest Ohio with this governor," Triantafilou said.
DeWine and Bevin have been discussing how to fund a long-overdue replacement for the aging bridge over the Ohio River, since the federal government has refused to help. Bevin is open to tolls, which have been a stumbling block with Kentucky legislators. The Brent Spence connects Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and carries hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day on Interstates 71 and 75. The bridge opened three days after President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and was declared structurally obsolete long ago.
More discussions could be in store when Bevin will be a guest of the Hamilton County GOP in March.
In his speech, DeWine pledged to create a better future for all Ohioans and specifically vowed to help at-risk kids and to work to end the opioid crisis.
“I will be governor for all the people of Ohio,” the past attorney general and former U.S. senator and congressman said in his address.
DeWine talked of having faith and hope in the future and working with Ohioans and the General Assembly to accomplish bigger and better things.
“The results may not be immediate but they will be profound,” DeWine pledged.
Watch the inauguration below:
To make his point, DeWine said his father planted maple tree seeds even when he was dying of cancer, knowing he would not live to see them grow but certain that they would flourish.
“Much of what we do, we will not see the results in the lifetime of this administration – nor in our lifetimes … but we can change the future,” DeWine said.
The new governor was short on specifics but pledged to “intervene early in the lives of at-risk kids," “be a passionate defender of the defenseless," and "make sure everyone can get a good education."
DeWine on at-risk kids:
“Our plans to intervene early in the lives of at-risk kids, to address their physical and emotional needs, and to give them better, higher-quality educational opportunities -- all will be undertaken in the faith and hope and confidence that these children will flourish and grow and that their lives will be forever changed by the things that we do,” he said.
DeWine on education and opportunity for all:
"Education is the key to equality and to opportunity. And everyone -- no matter where they were born or who their parents are -- deserves the chance to succeed, to get a good-paying job, to raise a family comfortably, and to be secure in their future.”
"We will be sure that all of our children - and I mean all of our children - can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives."
The new governor mentioned that the funeral for Colerain Township police officer Dale Woods was being held at the same time in Cincinnati and asked the audience of political leaders, family and friends to join him in a moment of silence.
— Evan Millward (@EvanMillward) January 14, 2019
Four former Ohio governors attended the statehouse ceremony: Kasich as well as Bob Taft, Ted Strickland and Dick Celeste.
Jon Husted, previously Ohio's secretary of state, was sworn in as the 55th lieutenant governor.
Flanked by family and close friends, DeWine officially became Ohio's 70th governor shortly after midnight Monday in a private ceremony at his farm near Cedarville.
Sworn in by his son and former Cincinnati councilmember Pat DeWine, now an Ohio Supreme Court justice, the new governor took the oath of office with his hand on a stack of family Bibles including one owned by his late daughter, Becky DeWine; one acquired in Jerusalem; and one that first lady Fran DeWine gave her husband on their 10th wedding anniversary, the Xenia Daily Gazette reported.
DeWine will conclude his weekend of activities with the inaugural gala at the Statehouse Monday night. The Republican didn't waste any time putting his stamp on the state. Immediately after signing the oath of office inside a packed farmhouse across the drive from his main home, DeWine signed six executive orders.
"We said we were going to hit the ground running," he said.
The first created the Governor's Recovery Ohio Initiative, placing one person - Alisha Nelson - in his administration in charge of coordinating the state's anti-drug effort.
The others created the Governor's Children's Initiative; established Ohio as a disability inclusion state and model employer of individuals with disabilities; elevated foster care priorities in Ohio; put an anti-discrimination policy back in effect adding pregnancy, young children and foster parents as protected classes; and elevated prevention within the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
DeWine, the oldest Ohioan to become governor, brings decades of political experience to the Statehouse. He was most recently the Ohio attorney general, in office since January 2011. Prior to that he served as a U.S. senator for 12 years, lieutenant governor under George Voinovich for four years, U.S. congressman for eight years, and state senator for two years. He's also a former Greene County prosecutor.
He said of those elected positions helped him prepare for this job.
"We will not let you down," he told the crowd.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.