Kimberly Kay Reynolds officially became Iowa’s 43rd governor and the state’s first female chief executive in formal ceremonies at the statehouse Wednesday.
First, Governor Branstad had to formally resign.
“I’m pleased to present my letter of resignation as I prepare for this exciting new adventure as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” Branstad said in a ceremony in his formal office.
Then the attention shifted to the statehouse rotunda where Chief Justice Mark Cady delivered the oath of office to Reynolds before invited guests and friends.
“I am incredibly honored to stand before you this morning as the governor of this great state,” Reynolds said to sustained applause.
Reynolds, who is 57 years old, told her personal story of growing up in small town Iowa, and her progress in public life from Clarke County treasurer and beyond, but not before first acknowledging a big debt to Governor Branstad.
Branstad propelled her into statewide office when he chose her as his running mate in 2010.
“Governor,” she said, and then corrected herself.
“Ambassador, thank you so much for having the confidence in me to serve as your lieutenant governor,” Reynolds said. “You have believed in me sometimes more than I believed in myself.”
Looking back, Reynolds summarized what she believes are the accomplishments of her years serving with Branstad, including economic development.
“We…restored liberties and protected life,” she added.
Looking ahead, her goals include tax reform, energy policy, good schools for children, and job training for adults.
For her time serving out Branstad’s term, Reynolds will have a Republican legislature to work with. But she says she worked across the aisle with Democrats when she was a minority Republican in the Iowa Senate.
"Where I come from, party label didn't matter nearly as much as getting the job done," she said.
“If she’s serious about working across party lines as she said she was in that speech, we stand ready to work with her,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg.
Hogg says as governor, Reynolds can insist that bipartisan legislation reaches her desk, not what he calls the one-sided Republican bills that distinguished the last session.
In her prepared remarks Reynolds called for a long-term solution for water quality, but that wasn’t in her delivered speech. Hogg says Reynolds has a chance to do better than Branstad on water quality.
“Hopefully she’ll find a way to distinguish herself from Governor Branstad,” Hogg said.
Overall, Reynolds didn’t make too big a deal over being the first female governor.
She says she wants to be known as a governor who made Iowa a better place to live, work, innovate, create, and raise a family:
“And then if they must they can add at the end of the chapter, oh, and by the way she was also Iowa's first woman governor,” Reynolds said.
But for many in the crowd it was important.
“It’s a great day for women and for Iowans,” said Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Director Judy Bradshaw, one of dozens of Branstad administration appointees at the ceremony, who has worked with Branstad and Reynolds for the last two years.
“She’s very well-organized, very competent,” Bradshaw said. “I’m very supportive of her and I hope her tenure lasts.”
Meanwhile, the tenure of other Branstad appointees is coming to an end.
Jake Ketzner who managed the Branstad/Reynolds re-election campaign in 2014 will be Reynolds’s Chief of Staff, replacing Michael Bousselot.
Branstad’s chief legal counsel and press secretary will also be replaced with new appointees Ryan Koopmans and Brenna Smith.
Other Branstad staff will take on new jobs, and others stay put in the new Reynolds administration.