Jonathan Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s 65th governor, took what is likely to be his final oath for statewide office Tuesday morning on a brisk, windy and overcast day on the south steps of the Mississippi State Capitol.
“I’d like to end this speech where I started: back 20 years ago when I first took this oath. As I have prepared for this day these last few weeks, it has been apparent to me that this is my last opportunity to do the thing I have most wanted to do my entire adult life,” said Reeves after being sworn in for his second term as governor and for a staggering total of six terms as a statewide officeholder. “And I know that I am not alone. I am surrounded by people in this Capitol, in both parties, who have chosen a path to make Mississippi better. And as I campaigned this year, I was struck by the fact that virtually everyone was driven by a desire to bring Mississippi up. We have all been placed in a position of great importance. We sit at a crossroads for our state.”
Full transcript: Gov. Tate Reeves’ 2024 inaugural address
When his second and final term as governor ends in January 2028, Reeves, who is 49 years old, could run again for a down-ticket statewide office, but that would be unusual and unlikely. Speaking to a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature, before other state officials and a sizable crowd of supporters and onlookers on the grounds of the Capitol, Reeves spoke as if he was beginning his final chapter as a statewide official in Mississippi.
“We have all been placed in a position of great importance. We sit at a crossroads for our state,” Reeves said. “We’ve been entrusted by our friends, peers and neighbors to make decisions that will impact many lives, not just today, but for many years to come. Let us take up this work with joy and determination. Let us come together and heal our differences. Let us all throw ourselves at the great mission. Let us be united by our mission to make Mississippi the home for all its sons and daughters forever.”
During the roughly 50-minute joint session, Reeves offered few specifics for his final term. Those will likely come later his month during his State of the State speech before another joint session of the Mississippi House and Senate. He spoke of familiar themes from his successful 2023 campaign, citing improvements he said have been made in education, economic development and health care.
But the governor did not address specific problems the state faces, such as the state’s lowest-in-the-nation per capita income, struggling health care system and health outcomes, including the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, or the struggling school districts sprinkled across the state.
“I really do believe that this is Mississippi’s time. We have an opportunity ahead of us that we must seize,” Reeves said during the about 20-minute speech. “But it will require that we be bold and ambitious. We must be bold in our reforms. We must be bold in winning new jobs and businesses. We must be bold in our commitment to principles. And we must be bold to build a brighter future for the state we all love.”
He promised significant economic development projects during his term.
The governor also spoke of the unity of Mississippi’s people, saying there was “no Black Mississippi or white Mississippi,” and that he was the governor of all Mississippians whether they voted for him or not.
Rep. Jeffrey Hulum, a Democrat from Gulfport, told Mississippi Today that he was optimistic to hear Reeves give a unifying speech about bringing the state together racially and politically, but he hopes the governor follows through with that promise over his next term.
“I appreciated the message about unity and coming together, but I hope his policies and actions line up with what he said today,” Hulum said.
There was speculation that because of the heavy rain the night before the event would be moved inside to the House chamber. But that would have prevented the use of the large podium constructed on the south steps, as is the custom, for a gubernatorial inauguration and would have prevented much of the pomp and circumstance, such as the discharge of the cannons recognizing the event.
Mississippi Today reporter Taylor Vance contributed to this report.
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