It’s an honor achieved by only two other men: Former Govs. Calvin Rampton, a Democrat, and Mike Leavitt, a Republican.
But Herbert’s route to the third “I do solemnly swear” is very different, however.
Both Leavitt and Rampton were elected on their own to their first terms – and to the two full four-year terms after that.
Herbert came to the governorship when former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican like Herbert, left nearly four years ago to become Ambassador Huntsman (to China) in Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.
Then Herbert won a special election in 2010 to serve out the remaining two years of Huntsman’s second term, and then won his own full four-year term last November.
No Utahn has ever been sworn in four times to the top executive post in the state.
Should Herbert decide to run for his own second full four-year term in 2016 (and he hasn’t ruled that out), and if he won, he would set a record that likely would be hard to break.
Both Rampton and Leavitt faced some grumbling of Utahns and fellow members of their own parties when they decided to go for a third term – some saying they were basically political hogs and others should be given a chance to serve.
And Rampton admitted later than he shouldn’t have run or served a third term – he and his family were just worn out.
Leavitt actually left early, resigning to go into the administration of GOP President George W. Bush.
Inaugural speeches, historically, deal with broad themes, the love of country and state, and overcoming hardships to achieve goals.
Herbert’s speech Monday was no different.
He recalled recent “heroes” – the family of Dave and Janice Taylor who saw their own home destroyed by a wildfire last summer only to help not only their own neighbors escape the flames, but later that hot summer went to another town threatened by fire to help feed firefighters there.
Herbert also spoke of the Mormon pioneers who cut the now-famous “Hole In The Rock” trail in the southern part of the state to get their wagons, possessions and cattle across the Colorado River.
“People who care more about others than they do about themselves. They make this state great,” said Herbert.
Just as those pioneers’ work didn’t stop after they crossed the Colorado, so today the work of Utah government and its people must go on, said the governor.
“We reached the bottom of the recession (in 2009) and our economy stabilized; the journey was not yet finished.”
Principles continue – from the pioneers to the Taylors, he added.
“We in Utah honor individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility – the power of people to work, to produce, to innovate, to be self-sufficient, and to be rewarded for their efforts.”
Herbert said it is important that all Utahns participate in our society; for that brings unity of goals and a greater chance of success.
(An aside here, Herbert has yet to take a stand on putting the full state sales tax of 4.75 percent back on to unprepared food. One of the arguments of the GOP state senators who favor doing away with that tax break is that all Utahns, no matter how poor, should contribute in some way to state government. That issue will be before the 2013 Legislature, which convenes in two weeks.)
“We all know that the correct path is often not the easy path,” said Herbert.
Many Utahns still have challenges, said Herbert, and he and those who make up his administration know that.
“To each I say – have courage. Have faith. There is reason to be optimistic.
“We are all making progress, and we will reach our destination.”
Herbert said several years ago, just before his mother passed away, he visited her.
She asked him if once in a while he pinches himself to see if he believes he is governor of Utah.
“Yes, I do,” Herbert said.
And she replied: “You know, I pinch myself, too.”
It’s a feeling that a number of Utah GOP officeholders (and a few not in office) that look longingly at the governor’s seat have felt at times, as reported previously by UtahPolicy.
And it was a self-effacing remembrance typical of Herbert, who may be one of the most humble governors in recent years.
A former real estate agent and Utah County commissioner, Herbert was considered a good lieutenant governor partner in 2008 – a draw to bring in Utah County conservatives.
But he was not seen as one of the top-flight contenders to succeed then-Gov. Olene Walker, Leavitt’s lieutenant governor who stepped up to the top office when he left and was considered vulnerable in her 2004 election bid because of her well-known moderate stands and support of public education teachers.
But Monday was Herbert’s day.
(And that of newly-elected Attorney General John Swallow, Treasurer Richard Ellis, Auditor John Dougall and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, all who also took their pledges Monday.)
“We should all strive to make things better for those who come after us,” said Herbert.
“I love this state and I love its people. I believe that Utah’s best days are still ahead of us!”