ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz took the oath of office on Monday as Minnesota’s 41st Chief Executive.

The former Congressman and high school teacher said his number one goal is to unite the state into what he called “One Minnesota.”

Minnesota’s new governor was led into the inauguration ceremony by a parade of his former teachers and students as a symbol of his teaching career and a signal of his top priority.

In his inaugural address, Walz promised to represent all Minnesotans and unite the state at a time of deep political divisions, especially in Washington.

“I will not normalize behavior that seeks to deepen or exploit these divides. I will not normalize policies that are not normal, ones that undermine our decency and respect. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will.”

The inaugural ceremony was heavy with symbolism, including a Native American drum circle.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who is Ojibway, wore native-style clothes and took the oath on an Ojibway language Bible from 1854.

“I stand before you now as a leader of an executive office in Minnesota. An office that oversaw horrific treatment of my ancestors,” Flanagan said.

The new governor came immediately to the State Capitol, where he reached out to legislative leaders.

He said he’s ready to get to work even if it all seems a bit surreal.

“A school teacher – someone with no political connections, no name and no money can take a message and build it and have the people of Minnesota trust me, and trust us together,” Walz said.

Pat Kessler