With his wife, Ann, holding the Bible and his five children standing behind him, Paul Richard LePage was sworn into office Wednesday, Jan. 5, as the 70th person to serve as Maine governor.

The first Republican governor of Maine in 16 years, LePage promised an enthusiastic crowd estimated at 5,000 in the Augusta Civic Center that he would trim the fat from state government and bring government back to the people.

Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, administered the oath of office to LePage, who overcame a youth of hard knocks on the streets of Lewiston. He went on to graduate from college, earn a master’s degree, became general manager of Marden’s stores and was elected mayor of Waterville before being elected governor.

Bruce Myrick of Sabattus, one of two “adoptive fathers” who took in LePage after he left home as a boy, told the inauguration crowd, “When I got to know Paul LePage, I never thought I’d be standing here today seeing Paul become governor of Maine. Paul had a very hard time getting through high school and college. I see that same drive and determination to get the job done today. He always credits me, the Collins family and (the late) Peter Snowe for helping him.”

Before the swearing-in, U.S. Army Col. Jack Mosher heralded LePage’s arrival in a booming voice: “Make way! Make way! Make way, for his excellency, the Honorable Paul R. LePage, governor-elect and the commander-in-chief of the state of Maine!”

The Rev. Joseph E. Daniels, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Waterville, gave the invocation, saying of LePage, “We pray that his administration may be conducted with righteousness. We pray for members of the Legislature and all judges and officials of state government.”

LePage, 62, drew loud applause from the boisterous crowd during his speech. According to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, he was interrupted 44 times during his inaugural speech.

“My pledge to the Maine people is to put people before politics,” LePage said. He drew loud applause when he said, “My concern is for the taxpayers tired of footing the bill for a bloated establishment in Augusta.”

On stage with LePage were outgoing Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci and three previous governors, independent Gov. Angus King, Republican Gov. John R. McKernan and Democratic Gov. Joseph E. Brennan.

In the audience were the entire membership of the Maine Legislature, plus the chief justices of all the courts, state and federal, in the state. There were also dignitaries from Canada, France, Pakistan and Ireland.

The 195th Army National Guard Band played a number of rousing tunes and the Little Eagles Drum Group entertained as did the Maine Steiners Singers from the University of Maine. Jillaine McGough sang the National Anthem.

“It is time to make state government accountable,” LePage said. “It is time to deliver value to our taxpayers. It is time to put people first.”

LePage said he will be hosting monthly breakfast meetings with teachers, business people and environmental people. “Oatmeal and solutions will be on the menu,” he said.

He said he would re-introduce Gov. McKernan’s “Capitol for a Day” program where town hall meetings are held in each of Maine’s 16 counties.

LePage also promised to host constituent service hours to meet directly with Maine people and share their concerns.

In education, LePage said it is time to again make vocational education a priority. He touted his plan to create five-year high schools where students can graduate with an associate degree that can be transferred into a four-year degree university, reducing the time and expense of earning a college degree in Maine.

He said welfare programs need to be maintained “for the truly needy and impaired.”

But LePage said the programs have to be focused on Maine residents, must move people from dependency to self-sufficiency, and must have a tiered system that rewards work and progress. Maine welfare programs also should have a five-year time limit, LePage said.

On business issues, LePage said Maine is the hardest place in the country to start and grow a business. As a result, he said, Mainers earn just 80 percent of the national per capita income.

“Only the private sector can create the jobs and investment we need to move forward,” LePage said, drawing sustained applause. “Profit is not a dirty word. In fact, it is the direct and indirect solution to all of our challenges.”

The new governor said the cost of doing business in Maine and the regulations that affect it, need to be reduced. And he said the state needs to train the next generation of workers in Maine in the industries that offer the most potential.

“I ran for governor because I know how to run a business and create jobs,” LePage said. “In my experience you pick your team, you make decisions and you stand accountable for your actions.”

“I do not care about editorials, opinion polls or the next election. Frankly, I have four years and a job to do,” said LePage. “In four years, I will stand accountable for the job we did at putting people first and creating prosperity for working Maine families.”

After the inauguration, House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, gave a Democratic response from the floor of the back of the center.

“The entire speech was very broad,” Cain said. “What exactly does he want to give up? When we get specifics we can respond better. This was very much in line with campaign speeches I’ve heard. The governor needs to tell us what he wants to change.”

Cain added, “If there is fraud in the welfare system, Democrats are all in favor of getting rid of it.”

“We’ve gotten off to a great start with [House Speaker] Bob Nutting. I’m looking forward to continuing a bipartisan approach,” Cain said. “We’ve had a smooth transition. We’re looking toward getting down to work.”