The day he first took his oath of office as governor eight years ago, John Hickenlooper said it was so cold the Colorado Air National Guard canceled the flyover.

Instead, a flock of geese flew overhead, and one legislator quipped loudly: “Already cutting the budget,” Hickenlooper recalled.

“It was a metaphor,” Hickenlooper said moments before his successor, Jared Polis, was sworn in on the state Capitol steps Tuesday. “Colorado was failing to launch. It was a broken economy and we had to make soul-crushing budget cuts.”

His first four years as Colorado chief executive were the toughest, he said. There were droughts, wildfires, flooding and a high-profile shooting in an Aurora movie theater. All on top of a foundering economy.

But that was then.

“Not too long ago, we were looked at around the country almost with pity. Today, I think we’re looked up to with a certain reverence,” Hickenlooper said.

“But challenges never go away. The journey of improvement is one that never ends.”

Hurdles persist within the economy, the environment, infrastructure and beyond, Hickenlooper told the thousands of people who gathered for the inaugural. But Polis is just the man for the job, he said.

Hickenlooper praised Polis as a true entrepreneur and said he was honored to pass the baton.

“He’s curious, creative and bold,” he said. “Jared doesn’t focus on conservative ideas or liberal ones. He doesn’t push an agenda with fear. His vision is rooted in the hopes of all Coloradans.

“There is an unrelenting urgency in the needs we face today and tomorrow,” Hickenlooper continued. “And Jared Polis is just the person to lead us.”

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